A police officer in Seattle who has been accused of targeting pot users was reassigned after it was revealed that he had written approximately 80 percent of the marijuana tickets issued in 2014. The officer, who was identified July 30 as Randy Jokela, has been with the Seattle police force since 1990. Of the 83 marijuana-related citations that have been issued in Seattle since January of this year, Jokela wrote 66 of them.
Jokela has earned a nickname for himself in his Seattle community; “The Joker” because of the glib or jocular comments he writes along the margins of the tickets he issues. Often, Jokela is reported to have added notes addressing citations to the attention of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. One report even makes the claim that Jokela flipped a coin in his case in order to determine whether the offender or “Petey Holmes” would be ticketed.
Pete Holmes is an outspoken advocate of Washington state’s struggle to legalize marijuana, an initiative that officer Jokela has spoke out against as a “silly” crusade. Citations issued for marijuana violations are filed in Seattle Municipal Court. If a ticket is contested, however, an infractions attorney from Holmes’ office may have occasion to review the case.
Jokela serves the downtown Seattle and Queen Anne district of Seattle’s West Precinct, where he currently patrols as a bike officer. In 2005, police officer, Jokela was accused of targeting pot users. However, he was named Seattle’s co-officer of the year.
President of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, Ron Smith, spoke highly of the Seattle officer in an interview regarding the conduct in question. Smith spoke glowingly, saying his work ethic was unparalleled and that his performance has always been exemplary. He could not defend, however, the jibes that Jokela allegedly made in the margins and on the backs of tickets issued since recreational marijuana became legal in Seattle in 2014.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Washington nearly two years ago. As of January 2014, recreational marijuana was deemed legal for use in Washington state, barring the observation of regulations and bylaws. The state opened its first retail pot store, Cannabis City, July 7 in Seattle where the police officer has allegedly been targeting pot users. Seattle’s controversial initiative to legalize marijuana has kept the state of Washington in the public eye over the course of the last few years. Advocates of pot legalization cite the medical applications of the drug, insist that decriminalizing marijuana could revitalize the economy through pot tourism and taxable earnings on its sale and claim that police and court resources would be freed up to deal with “legitimate” crime and criminals.
Many in Seattle’s police force, however, stood in opposition of the repealing pot prohibition. Law enforcement voiced objections that there could be a spike in impaired driving. Some believe legalizing marijuana takes a big step toward the decriminalization of other illegal substances and, most vocally, that lifting the ban on pot would send the message to children that use of marijuana is socially acceptable. Officer Jokela was one such objector to the legalization of marijuana, and it appears that he continues to express his disapproval of the law by targeting pot users for citations in Seattle.
Jokela may not be the only officer in Seattle that disapproves. Seattle-based TV station KIRO News shared the above photo following Holmes’ purchase of recreational marijuana the day that the drug became available to the public. Holmes publicly touted the two grams of marijuana that he purchased for the public, and faced some backlash when he reportedly returned to his office with the recreational marijuana in tow. A memo to city employees was issued the following day, reminding employees that the City of Seattle continues to be a drug-free workplace. As reparation, city attorney Holmes donated $3,000 to Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center. No reports have been made of any further disciplinary taking place in this matter.
The case against Randy Jokela has been referred to the Office of Professional Accountability for the department. The Seattle police officer, who has made a name for himself targeting pot users, has been relieved of his patrol duties pending further investigation. Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole added in a statement that she supports professional and constitutional service officers to the fullest.
By Mariah Beckman