4/20: CU Boulder denies crackdown rumors but says cops will be "more active"

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4/20 in 2011.
Earlier this week, we shared CU Boulder's plans for shrinking the annual pro-pot 4/20 event on campus -- a Wyclef Jean concert that gets underway just before the magic minute combined with what we termed a "police crackdown" on those who choose to mark the occasion in the usual way. Since then, wild rumors about what the latter means have run rampant, but a CU spokesman denies them even as he confirms that police will be "more active."

"We haven't used the word 'crackdown,'" notes CU Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard. (Disclosure: He's a longtime friend of yours truly.) "Some people might characterize it as a crackdown, but a crackdown to me is police in riot gear busting heads, and we're not going to get anywhere near that."

bronson hilliard.jpg
Bronson Hilliard.
Speculation among students since the university went public with its plan to shrink the crowd that gathers annually on the campus' Norlin Quad suggests precisely the opposite. For instance, one person, claiming an inside source, contacted Westword with the alleged revelation that CU would be employing a whopping 10,000 officers in SWAT team garb from departments as far away as Colorado Springs at a cost of $250,000.

Wrong, wrong and wrong, says Hilliard. He won't reveal precisely how many officers will be deployed for security reasons, but he notes that it won't be anywhere close to 10,000. Rather, he suggests a corollary to the number assigned to large campus events like football games, when officers from nearby communities such as Lafayette routinely supplement the CU Boulder Police squad. Likewise, cops won't be outfitted as if a revolution has just gotten underway.

As for costs, he points out that about $150,000 has been allotted for the concert itself, but those funds come from student fees and are earmarked for the show itself. (The sum includes Jean's salary.) And while Hilliard concedes that the university will probably exceed the estimated $55,000 it spent dealing with last year's 4/20 crowd, he can't be more specific at this time.

Our previous piece, based on an interview with student government spokesman Brooks Kanski, implied that after the doors to the concert closed at 4 p.m., attendees would be a captive audience until the bash's 6 p.m. conclusion. Not true, Hilliard says. Students will be able to leave, but they won't be readmitted.

What about marijuana use at the show? Will policing be as strict inside the Coors Events Center as out?

"If people light up during the concert, that's not something we're thrilled about, but it's also not something we care that much about," Hilliard allows. "The issue for the university about 4/20 has never been marijuana. It's 10,000 people in the middle of the academic heart of the campus doing anything. 10,000 people blowing bubbles in the center of the campus would be obstructive. The quad isn't designed for that many people. And people are trying to teach classes, trying to do research. So if a significant portion of that crowd goes to see Wyclef Jean and stays off the interior campus, that's a good thing."

Wyclef Jean.
Regarding police response to those who eschew the concert, an e-mail sent to students stresses that police will ticket people on Norlin Quad and elsewhere on campus before, during and after the event, with fines potentially reaching $100. Moreover, those cited will "have their names posted on the CU-Boulder police website's daily crime log, which could affect their employment futures," the message states.

A harsher approach? Not by much, Hilliard maintains. "The federal Clery Act requires us to post names of individuals who are ticketed or contacted, so those names have always been posted. The difference is that we've never openly communicated that to students -- never said, 'By the way, if you get a ticket on 4/20 for this or any other event, your name is going to show up on the police blotter.'"

On the topic of ticketing, Hilliard continues, "there's been a misperception that I would partly take credit for. A couple of years ago, I said we weren't going to wade into the crowd at the moment of 4/20 when the massive light-up takes place. And that was interpreted as, 'We're not going to ticket people at all for 4/20.' And that wasn't true then and it's not true now. Anybody who lights up on their way to campus or once they're on campus is subject to getting a ticket, and our officers are going to be looking at it."

Despite this approach, Hilliard says "I don't want the university to come across like we're preaching to people about drug use. It's just that this thing is a huge disruption."

Page down to see photos from last year's 4/20 event at CU Boulder and the letter to CU students about the concert.

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