4/20 at CU-Boulder: Cops ringing the campus will strive to be "peaceful"

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The CU-Boulder scheme to squelch the annual 4/20 event by closing Norlin Quad and banning visitors puts lotsa pressure on the university's police department. But spokesman Ryan Huff stresses that a plan is in place to dissuade potential attendees from coming to Boulder in the first place and treat those who show up anyhow with civility. Meanwhile, he swats down rumors that a students-only Wyclef Jean concert will turn into a massive weed crackdown.

What will would-be revelers encounter if they insist on heading toward CU in a couple of days? According to Huff, "We're going to have electronic message boards at all major thoroughfares that lead into campus, so people will have plenty of warning that the campus is closed to visitors on Friday. And we'll have officers at all the major entrances to the campus -- both pedestrian and vehicle entrances. They'll be checking IDs and educating people about the closure, and if people don't have IDs, they'll be asked to turn around. They won't be ticketed at the edge just because they approach the campus, but if those people who don't have IDs do not leave, that's when they could face a ticket for trespassing."

To be admitted to campus, students must display identification known as a Buff OneCard. Does this requirement create a "Show me your papers" scenario like the one painted by opponents of an Arizona immigration law, by essentially turning everyone into a potential suspect? Huff doesn't see it that way.

"Students use those cards all the time," he says. "They use them in the dining facilities, to access residence halls, to get on buses. They're something they show on a pretty regular basis."

Others who'll be allowed on campus include people who have previously scheduled meetings, symposiums or the like -- they'll have the equivalent of passes -- and attendees of a music recital, who'll be asked to display their tickets. (Apparently, music lovers who haven't purchased tickets in advance won't be able to walk up to the box office and do so.)

Media credentials will also be accepted, but that's about it. Would a hypothetical family and potential student from Michigan who traveled to town without knowing anything about the closure and wanted to check out the campus be given the opportunity to do so? Nope, Huff says. All campus tours have been canceled for the day, and e-mails have been sent to all students letting them know visitors won't be allowed. He encourages people wanting to visit CU-Boulder from out of state to check the school's website before showing up two days from now.

Page down to get more details about the CU-Boulder Police's 4/20 plans. As for people closer to Boulder, Huff stresses that the university is doing media outreach and even purchasing print ads in assorted publications to let them know not to come to CU on Friday. He also talks up how bad the traffic will be, referencing construction on Broadway -- work that's been going on for many months and which the university has never before cited as a reason why people shouldn't attend a campus event.

In the meantime, speculation continues to circulate that officers along the perimeter of the campus will be outfitted in riot gear. Not true, Huff emphasizes: They'll wear their standard uniforms.

Likewise, Huff continues, "there are rumors going around on social media that we will use the Coors Events Center," where the Wyclef Jean concert will be staged, "as a spot where we're going to lock the doors and ticket every last person who's smoking marijuana in there -- and that because the Coors Events Center is an enclosed area, it will make it easier for us to ticket people. But even though people have to get to the concert by four o'clock, we will at no point be locking people in. They can leave anytime they want. There's just no return option."

That's not to suggest officers inside the concert are pledging to abstain entirely from issuing weed citations. "If people are smoking marijuana, we can certainly ticket them," Huff confirms. "But I wouldn't say it's our number one priority of the day inside the Coors Events Center. Our officers inside will be doing what they normally do at a concert, which is making sure everyone is safe. They'll be enforcing the laws, too, but otherwise, I would consider it a normal concert operation."

Huff declines to say how many officers will be deployed as part of these operations. As for the cost, he confirms that "we spent approximately $50,000 on police and security last year, and it will certainly be higher than that. But you have to make an investment to try to end an event like this. No question these are extraordinary measures. But the university as a whole feels they're necessary because this event is so disruptive. This is what it's come to for us to try to bend the curve and reduce the number of people coming. And while it's certainly a sizable amount of money, it's money well spent if we can over a multi-year period end this event."

Nonetheless, he stresses that "our goal for the day is public safety and having peaceful interactions with people. We'll be educating people about what the closure is, and we'll be cordial and friendly to folks explaining these rules. But we'll also be clear about enforcing the law."

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More from our Follow That Story archive: "Photos: 4/20 at CU-Boulder scenes you won't see this year."

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