In 2011, Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, called for marijuana legalization, according to an op-ed piece he wrote for The Seattle Times. Holmes has even bought marijuana, and broken city rules by bringing it to work with him. Now, it appears Holmes has been targeted by a disgruntled police officer who is unhappy that voters passed I-502.
Seattle police officer Randy Jokela isn’t voicing his dissent through letters to the editor, or online forums; Jokela is calling out Holmes in odd messages he allegedly writes on the public marijuana consumption tickets he issues. And Jokela is Seattle’s top cop in regards to writing marijuana citations.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Jokela has issued 66 tickets for public consumption of marijuana from January to June 2014. According to a report from the Seattle Police Department, there were 82 total citations for public pot use issued by the SPD. This means Jokela has issued a little over 80 percent of the department’s public pot citations, which is slightly disconcerting considering the SPD currently employs almost 2,000 officers.
In Seattle, “the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses” is the lowest law enforcement priority, thanks to Initiative 75, from back in 2002. This initiative, to appease City Council and watchdog groups, requires the Seattle Police Department to report marijuana arrests while the city attorney is required to report prosecutions.
According to the Post-Intelligencer, Holmes has suggested the 66 people cited by Jokela fight their tickets in court. In a photo shown in the article, it says “Attn: Petey Holmes” encased in handwritten asterisks. However, what’s most interesting about the citation, is that it says he gave the citation to one person, while the other “walked” due to a coin flip.
Many other citations are also marked for Holmes attention, and Jokela frequently mentions the offenders are allowed to keep their pipe and weed, according to this photo set from KOMO News. Holmes told the Post-Intelligencer article that Jokela’s “soapbox” is inappropriate, and suggests that the officer is targeting homeless people to demonstrate his point.
Before the story of Jokela’s messages, and his mass issuance of tickets, The Seattle Times had already reported the racial bias apparent in the issuance of citations for public marijuana consumption. Of the 82 tickets written from January to June 2014, 37 percent were issued to black people, compared to 3.7 percent nationally, according to a cited ACLU report. A report from the SPD also showed that 31 percent of the citations were issued at the Victor Steinbrueck Park, in the SPD’s West Precinct.
Jokela has been described as “the hardest working officer on (sic) this department,” but his messages in his citations couldn’t be defended by the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, according to a blog in The Seattle Times. Jokela was awarded co-officer of the year in the West Precinct for 2005, but where is his professionalism in 2014?
The blog from The Seattle Times also reported Jokela has been reassigned from his patrol while an investigation is conducted. From reading the citations available online, it’s not exactly clear what Jokela was trying to get out of flagging the city attorney’s office. If he was seeking attention, he succeeded; if he was looking for a laugh, he failed.
According to The Evergreen, the day marijuana became legal in Washington, Holmes bought some from a dispensary and brought it with him to work, violating city rules. He later issued a news release to apologize for it, and also imposed a $3,000 punishment on himself, in the form of a charitable donation. He used the opportunity to point out that I-502 doesn’t require employers or governments to allow personal possession or use at work.
While Jokela is certainly afforded the right to disagree with the law, his duty is to uphold it. His 66 tickets were issued over 180 days; it doesn’t necessarily seem like he’s making it a focus of his career to bust the bus stop pot smoker, but he appears to act on it when he takes notice. Now, Jokela has the city attorney’s attention. What of it? Perhaps civil disobedience isn’t best performed within the duties of a civil servant.