CU community has mixed reactions over police chief’s comments
The CU community is debating the drinking age following Boulder Chief of Police Mark Beckner’s comments that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18.
Beckner’s comments in support of lowering the drinking age were made to a reporter with “60 Minutes” for a special on binge-drinking. Community response has been both in support of and in disagreement with the police chief’s remarks.
Beckner said his position is based on research rather than on anecdote.
“There’s data to indicate the rate of binge drinking has increased over the years,” Beckner said. “The problems associated with the use of alcohol and binge drinking on the college level have increased.”
While many are quick to assume that lowering the drinking age would result in more teenage accidents and deaths, Beckner said he did not believe that was the case.
“We’ve had more alcohol related accidents in that age group [18-21],” Beckner said.
Beckner said if the drinking age were lowered, authorities would be able to redirect their efforts to the prevention of alcohol abuse.
For Beckner, the key to fighting binge drinking lies in establishing steps and programs to reduce the abuse of alcohol.
Commander Tim McGraw, spokesman for the University of Colorado Police Department, said he wasn’t sure drinking problems or alcohol abuse could be tied down to a single age group or generation. Only the reasons for alcohol abuse varied from generation to generation, he said.
McGraw did acknowledge that alcohol abuse was starting at a younger age.
“Problems that begin in college are now beginning in high school,” McGraw said. “As far as what is the magic answer, I don’t think that there is one.”
Many CU students have voiced their support of Beckner’s stance, but some still have doubts about whether or not it will bring change.
“It’s cool that the police chief has such a progressive outlook about it, and it’s nice that there a bit of a movement across the country to lower the drinking age and bring this country in line with a more sensible policy, I just really doubt that it’s actually going to happen,” Nathan Goldbaum, a 20-year-old senior physics major said.
While some may have concerns about Beckner’s position while advocating a change in the current law, Boulder police maintain that their enforcement will be as stringent as it has always been.
“Beckner has made it very clear to everyone he speaks with that we are actively enforcing the existing law,” Sarah Huntley, spokeswoman for the Boulder Police Department said.
Huntley said the purpose of Beckner’s comment was to spark a conversation about the existing law.
“He feels strongly about this issue and he feels that there should be a healthy and robust dialogue,” Huntley said.
Paul F. Campos, a professor of law at CU, said he agreed with Beckner.
“It does seem to me rather problematic that we have a backdoor draft, sending 18-year-olds to Iraq but they can’t buy a drink legally,” Campos said.
Campos pointed to Europe, saying that their more tolerant view towards alcohol has helped reduce the risk of binge drinking.
“Strict laws lead to binge drinking,” Campos said. “Public officials should be able to advocate change in the law.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Stephen Oskay at Stephen.Oskay@colorado.edu.