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Seattle cop who issued 80 percent of marijuana tickets reassigned

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The Seattle Police Department has reassigned an officer who single-handedly issued about 80 percent of the marijuana tickets handed out in the city during the first half of this year, authorities said on Wednesday.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said staff reviewing data to prepare the department's first biannual report on marijuana enforcement found that 66 of 83 citations for public pot use were given out by just one officer.

"In some instances, the officer added notes to the tickets," O'Toole said in a statement, adding that some of the notes requested the attention of City Attorney Peter Holmes and were addressed to "Petey Holmes."

In one case, she said, "the officer indicated he flipped a coin when contemplating which subject to cite."

In another, O'Toole added, he referred to Washington's voter-approved changes to marijuana laws as "silly."

Washington state voted in 2012 to legalize the sale of cannabis to adults for recreational use but does not allow it to be used in public places.

She said the officer's actions were reported to the police's Office of Professional Accountability, and that he will not perform patrol duties while an investigation takes place.

The six-month report, which was released last week, found African Americans in Seattle were ticketed disproportionately to their population for using pot in public.

The police department said 36 percent of the tickets were issued to African-Americans, who make up just eight percent of the city's population.

A spokesman said the SPD recognized the numbers were disproportionate, and O'Toole reiterated on Wednesday that the study was designed to provide more oversight and to flag "anomalies or outliers" in Seattle's marijuana enforcement.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Michael Perry)

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