4/20 at Civic Center Park: Cops pledge greater presence, "discretion" with smokers
There'll be a lot of pressure on Denver police officers working this weekend's annual 4/20 event at Civic Center Park. Organizers have been asked to discourage public smoking even though lighting up at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 is arguably the gathering's most sacred tradition -- and security concerns are higher than ever given a still-unsolved shooting last year that resulted in one day's worth of festivities being canceled.
Photo by Brandon Marshall Police at Civic Center Park in the aftermath of last year's 4/20 shooting.
We asked Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson about these issues and how the department plans to approach them. Here's what he had to say.
"There will be a large police presence in the downtown area at the event," Jackson says. When asked for an estimate of the force's size, however, he defers. "What I can tell you is that officers will be patrolling the area to ensure the safety of the public -- people involved in the festival and people traveling nearby.
"Officers will be very visible," he adds. "We'll enforce the laws but exercise the proper discretion as we do so."
Marijuana critic William Breathes took this photo capturing 4:20 p.m. at Civic Center on April 20, 2013.
Does that mean the DPD will steer clear of mass arrests for public marijuana smoking, mirroring the department's actions in past years?
"We want people to respect the laws and the ordinances," Jackson replies. "Voters said marijuana was legal and we respect that. And we also want people to respect the laws as written -- and the law says not to smoke publicly. But we want to exercise discretion for the safety of everyone involved."
Does that mean backing off if a confrontation between law enforcement and 4/20 participants seems to be brewing? Rather than directly addressing this issue, Jackson sticks to his talking points.
"I'm not trying to be coy or difficult," he says at one point. "But we have to consider the public safety. So we're going to take everything into consideration -- officer safety and community safety -- whenever we take action."
Photo by Brandon Marshall Following the shooting last year.
Meanwhile, Jackson notes that "we're very cognizant about what happened last year" in terms of the shooting.
Continue for more of our interview with Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson about the law-enforcement approach to this year's 4/20 event, including more photos.