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Seattle commission wants public drinking at select locations

Seattle's Community Policing Commission wants city leaders to consider allowing public-drinking locations. (AP)

Seattle’s Community Police Commission is asking officials to consider allowing public drinking in select locations around town. It would essentially implement BYOB parks around the city.

The citizen-led commission is recommending that Seattle follow 18 other cities around the United States and implement public-drinking areas that would allow the consumption of alcohol in public, though hidden from view. The idea would essentially create bring-your-own-beer gardens. The Seattle Times reports that Boston’s Pine Street Inn has served as such a spot for public drinkers, and the commission points to it as an example. But that is a private site. The commission is promoting that plus a public option.

Related: Washington lawmakers consider cutting taxes for beer and booze

The public-drinking sites could be outside in public, or inside on private property. But the recommendation doesn’t stop there. The commission is also suggesting that residents of homeless shelters and certain sanctioned homeless encampments be allowed to consume alcohol and use certain drugs.

The idea comes hand-in-hand with the promotion of safe-consumption areas, including the use of injections and smoking marijuana. Seattle is currently considering safe-injection sites similar to what is used in Vancouver, BC.

The suggestion is part of a new 63-page police commission paper filled with recommendations on how the police department can better handle the issue of public intoxication. Other than citations, officers general make people dump out their alcoholic beverages or ban them from a park for 24 hours.

By allowing public-drinking areas, the commission aims to cut down on disproportionately issuing citations for alcoholic-related offenses.

The commission argues that black and Native American groups are receiving a disproportionate number of citations for public drinking. Homeless individuals are also among those most often cited. While blacks are 7.9 percent of the Seattle population, they represent a total of 28 percent of those cited for alcohol offenses. Less than 1 percent of the Seattle population is Native American, yet they account for 13 percent of those cited.

Seattle police most often cite black people for alcohol offenses in the east, west and south precincts. Native Americans, however, are most often cited in the east, north and west precincts.

Males between the ages of 46-55 are most often cited, with those 36-45 a close second.

From January 2013 to August 31, 2014, Seattle police officers issued 637 alcohol-related tickets. From January through August 2014, they issued 98 citations for marijuana-related offenses. Those numbers are actually small when compared to past figures. For example, in 2004, officers handed out 2,616 liquor violations.

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