Get High (and Identified) With a Little Help From Your Friends

colorado-student3a.jpgIt’s time to modernize the lyrics to some old Beatles songs. The University of Colorado police are using a website to post surveillance photos of students and other individuals it wants to identify for smoking pot on Farrand Field. Apparently, there’s a tradition at the University of Colorado for students to spoke pot on Farrand Field on April 20th of each year. According to the Rocky Mountain News:

University of Colorado police have posted pictures of 150 people on a website smoking pot on the “420” day celebration last week and are offering a $50 reward for anyone who can identify them.

Police spokesman Lt. Tim McGraw said they received more than 50 calls within the first hours of posting the pictures online Thursday afternoon. He said police were in the process of confirming the tips today.

According to the website:

The University is offering a reward for the identification of any of the individuals pictured below. After reviewing the photos (click on a photo for a larger image), you may claim the reward by following the directions below:

1. Contact the UCPD Operations section at (303) 492-8168

2. Provide the photo number and as much information as you have about the individual.

3. Provide your name and contact information.

4. If the identity is verified to be correct, you will be paid a $50 reward for every person identified.

5. The reward will be paid to the first caller who identifies a person below, multiple rewards will not be paid for individuals listed below.

Is this just good police work? After all, if a person is caught on camera doing a wrongful act, the police can certainly go around and ask people to identify that person. What’s wrong with doing it via a website? One problem is that the website disseminates permanent images of people smoking pot on the Internet. It forever memorializes a person’s youthful infractions to the world. Is such a police investigation tactic problematic or just efficient?

Hat tip: Michael Zimmer

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18 Responses

  1. anon says:

    What I find strange, is that it is not obvious that most of these people are committing a crime. They could be smoking tobacco in solidarity with their hemp-smoking brothers. A good question, I think, is that if the police know people smoke marijuana on a specific date, at a specific time, in a specific place, why don’t they enforce the law at that time/place instead of taking pictures and trying to track people down later?

  2. I agree with anon – I’d think it be tough to prove what they were smoking….of course, if many of our nanny-staters have their way, people will soon be copping to the pot charge vice cigarettes as the less serious of the two….

  3. naiserie says:

    looking at the website, it doesn’t seem likely that the offenders would be prosecuted for anything drug related. the sign clearly says that the field is closed i.e. any one caught on camera is guilty of trespassing. although, they only post pictures of people smoking “something” AND tresspassing, not of anyone simply tresspassing…the implication is clear.

  4. Mike says:

    I took a loook around the site and saw the high-resolution pictures. Man, this just feels creepy!

  5. scottage says:

    OK, maybe it makes me a freak, but I don’t see what the big deal is? They’re kids, they’re at college, they’re not hurting anyone…universities have along standing tradition of looking the other way at very times and places because that’s part of growing up, and who does it really hurt? But like Anon syas, now it does hurt someone, as these pictures are out there for anyoen to find, potoentially limitting the future of teh students who the University is trying to elevate. To me, it just makes no sense.

  6. This is great proof that the University’s police budget needs some trimming.

  7. Paul Gowder says:

    Yea, what scottage and Chris said. Don’t those people have anything BETTER to do? What kind of horrible busybody cop really WANTS to go out and bust a bunch of college students for smoking a joint? And to take this much effort to do so? And to break up a perfectly innocent, if harmlessly illegal, tradition.

    Actually, I know exactly the kind of horrible busybody cop this is. The same sort of horrible busybody cop as the ones who arrest people for eating french fries on the D.C. metro.

    I suspect many of these sort of auxiliary cop divisions (metro police, university police, etc.) are populated with people who couldn’t get into the real police academy.

  8. Paul Gowder says:

    One more thing. What kind of STUDENTS are out there IDENTIFYING people for this police state tactic? As opposed to, say, taking over the administration building, which seems like a more appropriate response to 1984 stuff like this.

    This is so offensive and scary that students would participate in identifying their fellows like this, for fifty bucks no less. (Perhaps this new Gospel of Judas is proving inspirational?) It’s just horrifying. Sheep. Sheep. (And pigs, natch.)

  9. Al says:

    I fail to see the issue. $50.00 sounds good to me.

  10. Bill says:

    Sounds to me like it time to use a sort of denial-of-service attack. The identification process will come to a grinding halt if hundreds, thousands, millions of people phone or write the campus police with bogus IDs of people in the photos. It will be impossible to follow them all up and difficult to separate the real IDs from the bogus IDs. I urge your readers to give it a try. – Bill

  11. Mike says:

    I suspect many of these sort of auxiliary cop divisions (metro police, university police, etc.) are populated with people who couldn’t get into the real police academy.

    Paul, that’s exactly right. Campus cops are the worst. Imagine how you feel if you were incapable of being a “real” police officer? After all, all it takes is an IQ over 100 and a decent level of physical fitness. These campus cops can’t even meet those standards.

  12. M says:

    I love Bill’s idea.

  13. logicnazi says:

    There is absolutely NO justification for this police behavior. NONE AT ALL.

    Let’s say you actually believe in the war on drugs and buy into all that crap about how marijuanna is so much worse than alcohol and is harming our youth. In this case you believe it is justifiable to arrest people and otherwise inflict harm on them (denying financial aid as a result of drug conviction etc.. etc..) because you are saving youth from the life deystroying effects of drugs (amazing how many former pot smokers are lawyers and university professors now isn’t it?).

    If you really believe this and know people are going to be smoking at a particular time and place you have a responsibility to go STOP them so they won’t damage themselves and no one will try pot for the first time at this location. Remember it isn’t like these are hardened drug dealers or something these are college students, the people the war on drugs is supposed to be saving from drugs. Not stopping the drug use and then getting people to inform on them afterwards is just vindictive cultural warfare.

    As for the worry of permanently immortalizing their youthful indiscretions online I don’t think this is much of a concern. In 20 years people will look back on those pics the same way they look back on pics of them getting drunk and putting a lampshade on their head when they were in college. It’s only going to be a problem if they want a career in politics but since opposition to pot use seems to be very generationally dependent and Bush got away almost admitting he snorted coke even this might not be a problem.

  14. logicnazi says:

    For the more legally knowledgeable people here if the people caught on film don’t want to perjur themselves and claim they were just smoking tobacco so they could look cool and fit in is this possibility still enough to raise reasonable doubt?

    In particular could a good attorney get a judge to throw out a drug case on lack of evidence before it even gets to the jury because the government didn’t make a prima facia case? I think it is obvious that this should create reasonable doubt but somehow I have trouble believing a jury wouldn’t see the pics and notie the fact that the defendant didn’t take the stand and assume they were guilty.

  15. Windypundit says:

    […] if the people caught on film don’t want to perjur themselves and claim they were just smoking tobacco so they could look cool and fit in is this possibility still enough to raise reasonable doubt?

    Not a lawyer, but if these people get caught, they shouldn’t try to lie to the cops, they should just remain silent. Generally, the prosecution has to prove all the elements of a crime, and if they can’t prove it’s pot, they can’t prove the crime.

    Actually, this is a pretty neat trick by the cops: It looks like the people in the photos will be charged with trespassing because the field was closed, not pot possession. Therefore if they say something like “I was just smoking hand-rolled tobacco cigarettes,” they are admitting that they were in the field, thus admitting trespassing.

    You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

  16. wvlawyer says:

    From a criminal standpoint, it would be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any particular individual was smoking marijuana based solely on that photo. It would probably take the individual’s own testimony (and preferably the testimony of others) to raise that doubt. Otherwise, you have the circumstantial evidence of the time, place, event, clothing, paraphanelia, etc, that could weigh very heavy in favor of the prosecution.

    However, the criminal case isn’t going to be nearly as big as what the university will probably want to do to these students. The university could easily expel or suspend these students–probably as an example to others–and they will have a much easier time doing that than the police will have getting misdemeanor convictions. Even at a state university, there aren’t many of the protections enjoyed by defendants in criminal cases. And the punishments imposed by the university will likely be much worse than anything that would be imposed for a misdemeanor (short of a substantial jail sentence).

    I practice criminal defense in a town with a major state university. I’ve represented students who have been expelled for things such as public intoxication and illegal burning. Where the students would face at most a $1000 fine in magistrate court, they were looking at expulsion from the university and loss of scholarships. The cost of such expulsions can be staggering, costing some students tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life if they wish to continue with their education. Plus, once a student is expelled, it is very difficult to get admitted to another school.

  17. nyjd says:

    If enough people felt and thought that this type of “police work” was dispicable they would find the right leverage, and this crap would be no more.

    The posts by Paul Gowder at April 29, 2006 11:24 PM and logicnazi at May 1, 2006 04:10 AM, are right on target. The informer/students are pathetic and it is their reportage which deserves all the derision. The police have always been willing to use informers, but this may be a wake up call for some of you.

  18. Jon says:

    I am a student of CU Boulder, and from what I have heard is that the kids will be charged for trespassing, but they will atleast still have to attend the drug abuse class by the university( which costs $120). And from what i have been through, the judicial board on campus works nothing like a court of law, your best bet is to admit that you did it and take your consequences. The judicial officers have egos and tempers like anyone else and they and if they think that you are lying there is nothing stopping them from being a jerk and slapping you with even more consequences.