Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes told the City Council on Monday morning that he will seek dismissal of 100 tickets for public marijuana use after a single police officer was found to have written the vast majority of the citations as part of a political agenda.
Bicycle Officer Randy Jokela issued about 80 percent of the $27 tickets for public pot use during the first half of the year and wrote on many of them “*Attn: Petey Holmes*.” Holmes actively supported Initiative 502, which legalized pot smoking in 2012 but barred public use.
Jokela also wrote on one ticket that he flipped a coin to decide which of two people to cite.
Holmes’ plan means 86 infractions written between Jan. 1 and June 30 stand to be dismissed if approved during a Municipal Court hearing that could be held as early as Tuesday. His action goes beyond Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s request to dismiss tickets written only by Jokela and includes all infractions, out of fairness to everyone who was cited.
Holmes told the council the “cleanest and most efficient thing to do” is vacate all the tickets and “hit the reset button.”
Holmes will also ask that all tickets written in July be dismissed because Jokela — who wrote 66 tickets between Jan. 1 and June 30 — also issued tickets during that month. The tickets from that month brings the total number of citations Holmes will seek to dismiss to about 100.
People who were cited had the option of paying the fine, mitigating the sum or contesting the infraction. Those who defaulted had their cases sent to collections.
For those who have already paid their tickets — which appeared to be a small number — city attorneys ask the court to set up a reimbursement plan.
O’Toole, acting on information uncovered in an internal investigation, wrote to Holmes asking that he seek dismissal of Jokela’s tickets.
O’Toole has notified Jokela that he faces a three-day suspension without pay, and she has informed Jokela’s immediate supervisor, Sgt. Ryan Long, that he faces a one-day suspension without pay, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Jokela’s actions came to the attention of Police Department staff reviewing data collected for its first semiannual report on pot-law enforcement delivered to the council in July.
Deputy Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said maintaining the tickets Jokela wrote would be “irresponsible and unethical” because people were cited by an officer with “political motivation.”
Assistant Chief Nick Metz said the department was focused on educating the public about the law and teaching officers how to enforce it.
“The point here is not to issue a lot of citations,” said Metz. He said when officers encounter someone smoking marijuana, they should first issue a verbal warning. Metz said officers will be expected to document warnings, and issue citations to repeat offenders.
“This is all new. I think some officers may have been a bit apprehensive about exactly how to enforce this,” said Metz, adding “It’s our job to make sure they clearly understand what is expected of them and what they are authorized to do.”
Holmes said he was sympathetic to concerns that public pot use was widespread. “It does bother me,” Holmes said, adding that people have the right not to be subjected to secondhand smoke.