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Posts published in August 2014

A one-cop legal climate

idaho RANDY

Not commonly does a single public official, at least those unelected, manage to change a whole legal environment all on their own. But it can happen. A new story out of Seattle last week showed how one police officer managed to do it all on his own.
The instance came to light when the Seattle Police released its regular report, on required by city rules, on marijuana enforcement.

It said, “When reviewing data captured for this report, SPD staff discovered that 66 of 83, or approximately 80%, of marijuana tickets were issued by one officer. In some instances, the officer added notes to the tickets. Some notes requested the attention of City Attorney Peter Holmes and were addressed to 'Petey Holmes.' In another instance, the officer indicated he flipped a coin when contemplating which subject to cite. In another note, the officer refers to Washington’s voter-enacted changes to marijuana laws as 'silly.'”
About half of the tickets went to people who were homeless.

The officer's name was released by the department, after inquiries, and he was taken off the beat and reassigned.

This was an officer who didn't get the city's unofficial memo about marijuana enforcement. The city's voters have passed a measure ordering that pot enforcement be, in effect, the lowest priority for police. The message has been in essence – well in advance of the statewide legalization vote – that unless violence or theft or children are involved, or someone complaints about a specific problem, that marijuana is best just left alone.

Still, the officer was following the terms of the law, a law that was on the books locally and remains on the books federally. Until it's off the books entirely, he would have legal authority to unilaterally change the legal climate in his corner of Seattle.

Police and prosecutors have a lot of effective power. They could in theory go after many kinds of offenses; as a matter of practical reality, they pick and choose.

And as long as the law allows, some will choose in ways the community as a whole might not prefer.

That's the case for not just expressing preferences, but for changing the law.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Republicans plan for Saturday meeting (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register)
Vehicles in intersections at red lights (Boise Statesman)
Intense hail storm damages crops in north (Lewiston Tribune)
Latah County finances look ok (Moscow News)
Idaho school officials look at dual credit (Moscow News)
Wildfires continue to heat up (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon debates over suspending labor detail (Nampa Press Tribune)
SkyFest event planned for Pocatello airport (TF Times News)

500 years for sex molester, a record (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath concerns about groundwater limits (KF Herald & News)
Ashland area evacuated over wildfires (Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News, Ashland Tidings)
Medford police station design approved (Medford Tribune)
Grass fire hitting Condon area (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Discussion about volume at Columbian spillways (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Tension with neighbors of a pot farm (Portland Oregonian)
Providence mapping tumors in cancer war (Portland Oregonian)

Planning for improvements at Bainbridge terminal (Bremerton Sun)
Bremerton cops focus on repeat offenders (Bremerton Sun)
House candidate refunds donations after complaints (Olympian)
Interfor may close two timber mills (Port Angeles News)
Spokane council okays more police funds (Spokane Spokesman)
State health covers transgender next year (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark County accounts criticized in audit (Vancouver Columbian)