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Veteran Seattle police officer re-assigned for overzealous marijuana ticketing

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Seattle, WA (CNN) - A veteran Seattle police officer has been reassigned and is under investigation for busting too many pot smokers. Authorities say the officer wrote nearly 80% of the marijuana tickets issued in the city during the first half of this year.

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These are just some of the 66 marijuana tickets Seattle’s police chief says were handed out by a veteran officer in the first six months of this year. Many of the tickets were written after the officer spotted people smoking marijuana at or near city parks, or simply having it in their hand.

On several occasions, Chief Kathleen O'Toole says the officer added notes hoping to get the attention of City Attorney Pete Holmes, who's been a vocal supporter of legalizing marijuana. On one ticket she says the officer found two people smoking marijuana near Occidental Park and used a coin flip to decide who would be cited and who wouldn't. A note on the back of another ticket referred to the state's voter-approved recreational marijuana law as "silly."

O'Toole says she learned about the officer's conduct when the department released its first semi-annual report on marijuana enforcement. For now, the officer has been reassigned to administrative duties. An internal investigation will determine if his actions were appropriate.  

KOMO TV reports 36% of those cited were African-Americans, who make up 8% of Seattle’s population. 46% of those ticketed told police they lived in a homeless shelter, transitional housing or had addresses associated with homeless services.

Pete Holmes says he is grateful the police chief is looking into the matter. In a statement, he said: "i am personally very sorry that apparently a significant number of homeless individuals were inconvenienced by an officer's apparent attempt to get at me." KOMO TV reached out to the officer for comment, but has not heard back.

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