Pot Fuzz: Cops turn dealers at Seattle Hempfest

Sergeant Sean Whitcomb makes friends. Credit: Seattle PD
Sgt. Sean Whitcomb makes friends.
Credit: Seattle PD

The boys in blue handed out crispy snacks at this weekend’s marijuana celebration, Seattle Hempfest – albeit with a request to not drive high — taking advantage of the recent legalization. Sgt. Sean Whitcomb explained his mixed-up day.

Did people think this was an undercover sting?

Not many; this festival is not new and we’ve been around for 20 years. What’s new is the change in law and our department is pioneering new and creative ways to reach festivalgoers, and we’ll keep looking for new ways.

Like making them stroganoff?

Opportunities abound in this profession and with the change in law we want to jump on it. Seattle is an iconic city and the people who live and work here need to understand our expectations. We feel education is as important as enforcement.

Did you see a lot of familiar faces from the cells?

No – this event draws tens of thousand of people so I did wonder if I would be recognized but no one did.

Potheads have a reputation for being paranoid – did it get uncomfortable after a while?

Out of thousands of people I counted about five who looked at me, took a step away and walked faster.

Where you pleased to be able to connect with a previously off-limits section of society?

The idea to find creative ways to reach out has been around a while, and thus was born Operation Orange Fingers.

Will you be able to use this as a model to catch major crooks – like handing out snacks at a fictitious ‘crack festival’?

You have defined undercover police work.

Did you make friends?

It is very gratifying being approached by people saying they felt like the underground, afraid to come to us. We’re pleased to make a new connection with people we’re paid to protect.

So you are loving the legalization of marijuana?

We’re pleased with our efforts to engage with the community.


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