As we've reported, a slew of Denver police officers have gotten into trouble lately -- and a number of the incidents, including a brawl apparently spurred by wife swapping, featured alcohol. And that's not to mention assorted busts involving law enforcers and drunk driving.
Could some of these episodes have been prevented if Denver cops were allowed to smoke pot while off-duty as an alternative to liquor? One marijuana advocate thinks it's worth giving a try.
"We know that alcohol is a major contributing factor in countless acts of violence -- and marijuana is not typically associated with such behavior," says Mason Tvert, communication director for the Marijuana Policy Project and a prominent proponent for Amendment 64, which lets adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of marijuana.
"We now allow adults in Colorado to make the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol if that's what they prefer," he adds. "And that should extend to our law-enforcement officials."
Tvert's proposal was inspired by a recent Denver Post article noting that the Denver Police Department is conducting a review of the DPD's alcohol-abuse policies in the wake of negative PR surrounding several cops -- among them Detective Daniel Diaz de Leon, cuffed for a number of domestic violence-related reasons.
The report also mentions three Denver cops being investigated on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol -- and while the department declined to identify the officers in question, there are plenty of other examples out there. Just last week, for instance, we reported about Officer Aaron Egger, who initially tried to blame a drunk-driving crash on an imaginary friend.
Egger is currently on desk duty because he's been ordered not to drive a vehicle without an interlock device that requires a breath sample before it'll start -- and no Denver police cruisers are outfitted with one.
And then there's the case of Officer Jessie Espinoza, who was convicted of driving drunk in 2013 -- and it wasn't his first time. He reportedly has a DUI conviction on his record from 1996, three years prior to joining the DPD. (Current policies wouldn't have allowed his hiring.)
Does Tvert think the DPD would be open to amending its marijuana policies as a way of providing an alcohol alternative? Well, he sent the MPP press release to the department's public information officer and hasn't received a reply. But he feels the time is right to consider this step.
"The department is going to review how it handles alcohol-related problems with its officers and how to address them," he points out, "and part of that review should include examining whether allowing officers to use marijuana could reduce levels of alcohol use."
He doesn't limit this advice to Denver. "If our police departments in Colorado are comfortable allowing their officers to consume alcohol off-duty, there's no logical reason why they should prohibit them from making the safer choice to use marijuana," he maintains. "And if their concern is some sort of state or federal law, they should consider lobbying to change that law in the interest of employees and their safety."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Here's a larger look at Jessie Espinoza's booking photo.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa June 11: "Aaron Egger, Denver cop, claims bogus 'good buddy' was driving to get out of DUI bust."