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That kid in Philly should not have been tased

May 4, 2010, 1:25 PM EDT

Phillies fan taser.jpgLet me start out by acknowledging a couple of things:

1. That kid at the Phillies game had no business whatsoever being on the field last night. He should be arrested and charged to the fullest extent the law allows.

2. Fans on the field represent a threat to the athletes. I remember the Monica Seles incident. I remember Tom Gamboa being attacked in Chicago.  That’s scary stuff and no one should abide threats to the players, coaches or officiants at a sporting event.

That said, I do not agree that the guy at the Phillies game should have been subdued with a Taser. It was too much force, in my view, and was disproportionate to the threat presented.

And make no mistake: a Taser is designed to be use to combat threats, not merely to help subdue drunks or trespassers. Indeed, the very company who makes the Taser calls it a product that “protects life.” One that is designed to “incapacitate dangerous, combative, or
high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement/correctional
officers, innocent citizens, or themselves
.” 

Watch the video of the incident here. Can anyone point to a moment where the kid threatened or even came near anyone on the field? Any point where he appeared to be “dangerous,” or “combative?” Any point where he appeared to “pose a risk to law enforcement officers?” If you can identify it please let me know, because to me it looks like the whole scene was calling far louder for an overdub of “Yakety Sax” than the use of high voltage force.  In the grand scheme of things, this kid represented a threat somewhere below that of your average streaker and somewhere above Morgana the Kissing Bandit.

The most common response I’ve heard to this argument today is “but Craig, we don’t know what the kid could have done! There was so much uncertainty!”  My response to that: every single encounter between law enforcement and the public brings uncertainty. Ask a cop and he’ll tell you: even the most mundane traffic stop has the potential to turn dangerous quickly. That’s just a fact of life when you’re dealing with people who do wrong, or who are at least suspected of such.

But we don’t allow police officers to use force at every traffic stop or whenever they encounter a drunk or a trespasser. Why? Because such force is not necessary to accomplish the goals of police work.  Force — and the the use of a Taser is definitely force — is a last resort, only to be used in a manner commensurate with the threat presented and to overcome the obstacles which prevent the accomplishment of the officer’s goal.  This is the law. It also happens to be a pretty good idea.

Late this morning the Philadelphia police issued a statement standing behind the police officer who used the taser.  The rationale was that “the officer had acted within the department’s guidelines, which allow
officers to use Tasers to arrest fleeing suspects.”  To which I respond: where was he fleeing? He was in a walled off stadium surrounded by police and security guards. He was almost certain to just stop and give up as soon as his beer-fueled bravado ran its course, which appeared to be within approximately 10 seconds of when he was tased. He wasn’t going anywhere.

I know that people worry about the safety of players.  I do too.  I also worry, however, about what happens when the government uses its most serious power: the power to exert force over citizens. There are over 2000 baseball games a year. In any given year there
are very, very few incidents of fans running on the field. Of those, incidents in which the fans get anywhere near a player before being subdued are even rarer. If more attention were paid to in-stadium security, the incidents would be even rarer than that.

Now think about what we risk when we tell police officers that it’s
perfectly acceptable to use force without heed to the actual threat — as opposed to potential threat — posed by the suspect.  Because make no mistake, that’s what anyone who uses the “but we have no idea what could have happened” argument to support the police officer is really saying.  Personally I find that unsettling.

Based on what their web site says, I think the folks who make Tasers would find that unsettling too.

448 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. dear god - May 11, 2010 at 3:19 AM

    Craig…in a world where Bauer’s EVERY action is considered heroic, nothing about your argument will be accepted by a majority. We are, tragically, LOSING what it means to be Americans by the simple act of doing what many think is necessary to PRESERVE what it means to be Americans. When people say it’s not the same world as when Morgana ran out onto the field, that’s simply code for a post 9/11 world. Having lost a friend and a family member during that nightmare, I can say for my part that moving forward by living in fear is not acceptable. Changes and safeguards? Sure. But NOT at the price of giving up what’s special about our country. Dear god folks, OF COURSE the police have an uncertain and dangerous job, but they CHOSE the job. This is why they deserve our thanks and admiration, but not free rein to take the path of least resistance. I utterly reject the notion that the kid deserved whatever happened to him the moment he jumped on the field. I have much higher expectations for the people we honour in law enforcement. My brother is a cop and I expect more of him as well, but he also expects that of himself.

  2. zoomzoom - May 11, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    If you notice, Philadelphia also condoned beating and kicking the crap out of some guy, all on tape too.

  3. Little Dubz - May 11, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    It amazes me that Americans think it’s ok for the police to punish people on the street. Tazers are NOT for doling out punishment. They are for neutralizing dangerous situations. Punishment is supposed to come after conviction in a court of law. Do you want police to have the authority to be judge, jury, and executioner over you, with no due process? That is not (supposed) to be the way it works in this country. The kid deserves to be punished in accordance to the rule of law, not by a police officer in a heated moment of adrenaline, frustration, and anger.

  4. Dan - May 11, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    “But we don’t allow police officers to use force at every traffic stop ”
    Great point Craig. Very convincing.
    Sarcasm…Off

  5. TASED N DAZED - May 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    If you break the law you get tased, simple.I have been to many
    games and I never got tased, stay in your seat and you won’t be
    TASED DUDE.

  6. shashi ramakrishna - May 12, 2010 at 3:46 AM

    Sir, EVERY person who non-violently resisted authorities in a variety of civil rights actions broke the law and deserved to be tased (or the equivalent beating of the era) by your definition. Similarly EVERYONE in Tianamen Square broke the law and resisted arrest and deserved what came their way. After all, if one cannot establish the threat level of a teenager on the outfield running about, one certainly cannot establish the threat level in the aforementioned cases.

  7. Durabull - May 12, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    This is a bit of a slippery slope. Especially if you expand this to all elements of society. Like that trafic stop you mentioned.
    Honsestly, I don’t know the dangers involved with using a tazer but feel it was justified here.
    The kid ran onto the field.. The cops told him to stop.. he kept running… they told him to stop again.. he kept running. It eventually reached a point where they had to do something. Tazer used. Kid off the field and the game goes on.
    That’s a little abrubt perhaps but times have changed. It used to be a lot of fun watching the nuts run around the field. I’ve even booed a security guard in when he took down a fan running on the field. It was just part of the experience.
    In today’s world, it just doesn’t work anymore. The whole thing is kinda sad actually.

  8. ward - May 12, 2010 at 7:21 AM

    no, just force everyone caught running on the field to read your articles.

  9. j.s. - May 12, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    policemen shold receive million dollar saleries just like the pro baseball players receive. I would not mind a big tax increase to help make this feasable. And dont you dare bitch about tax increases!!!!!

  10. grimajck - May 12, 2010 at 11:42 PM

    The cops should try a different tactic. They have cops on horses in Philly. Why not train some of them as cowboys? They can ride on the field and lasso and hogtie the kid. Now that is some entertainment. As far as being tazed- it might be just what this kid needed to bring him back from the brink of being a jackass for the rest of his life. Really, who cares? Aren’t there bigger issues to deal with? BUt seriously- Phila PD- consider my idea.
    LETS GO FLYERS

  11. Albert A Hawkins - May 13, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    That was not a child but a young adult who broke the law and action was taken by law enforcement officer. It is a certain conduct that one must have at sporting events also not only sure he had been tazed but banned from the ball park for a period of time and given thirty days of community work cleaning up the park after games for his unruly actions.

  12. MrNimziki - May 13, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    Everyone who walks into Citizens Bank Park should be tased.

  13. chrisleak - May 14, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    Only an idiot would think the kid should not have been tased. This hand-wringing over wrongdoers feelings has got to stop….I just shake my head. Calcaterra is an idiot.

  14. Richard Kennedy - May 15, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Even so, You are still going to hell. God will still judge you based on His law, and you fail. No matter how forgiving you are to evildoers, God does not grade on a curve. You may not believe in justice, but God does.

  15. tset - May 18, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    Is the author seriously trying to imply that a security officer, whose job it is to quickly apprehend anyone that enters the field was suppose to stop.. and assess that this was just a kid goofing around?
    In the end, I think we all know that this kid was not a threat. That being said, it is completely unreasonable to ask someone to assess whether or not this is the case during this kind of situation. He could have had a weapon, bomb, or who knows what..
    I also can’t believe how overblown this story has become just because of the taser use. Are we really going to sit here and try to claim that far worse has not happened? Heck I’ve been to more than one professional sporting event in which a person running on the field was beat down by players to the point where they were punching and kicking him on the ground.

  16. JB (the original) - May 19, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    A couple idle thoughts:
    In regards to the TASER, initially, I thought ‘good, the idiot deserves it’, but after thinking about it, and the number of people who have died after being TASed, it probably wasn’t the greatest idea (but only because of the possible death aspect)
    That said, when someone comes onto the field/court of play, they do need to be subdued/apprehended as quickly and efficiently as possible. If they let yahoos run around until they run out of energy and then ‘walk them off’, it’ll be all day, every day.
    So what to do?
    Call over to Warner Bros. and see if “ACME” has any more Net Guns?
    Send the security staff to a week-long training ‘conference’ in Sao Paulo to learn the art of the Bolo?
    Comp free “on field” tickets to a couple of Linebackers and Safetys from the local college with a ‘free meat’ understanding if someone jumps on the field?
    Hire just one guy who doesn’t look like he sits and eats doughnuts all day….

  17. ultraman - May 24, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    I long for the good old days, when a cop could SHOOT a fleeing criminal!

  18. Fred - May 25, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    I wandered across the columns written by Craig Calcaterra and I just want to know where I can get back the fifteen minutes I wasted. Whatever happened to having sports writers who could write interesting material that was worth reading? If this liberal loon can get a column, I guess anyone can.
    Tasing this loser kid was absolutely correct 100%. There is no “what if” game. He did run out on the field, he did refuse to stop fleeing, he did refuse to surrender. The taser does not constitute excessive force in this situation. Even the Philadelphia PD says so.
    Since you love to play the race card, I’m surprised you didn’t accuse the security guard of racism.

  19. sethgordon11 - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    If I told you how easy it is to get a job in this recession, you wouldn’t believe me. But the truth is more employers are going online to find people just like you and me who are ready to work at a good job. The only thing that makes sense is to stop wasting time filling out a dozen applications and going from one boring low paying job to another. I found this site that pretty much matches you up with your dream job that is available. I have found it very helpful. Go to GetMeJobNow.com

  20. gcarn - Jan 1, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    To tase or not to tase ? Don’t know , but for future reference a couple German Sheppards would do quite nicely. One in right field and one in left . Let the games begin!

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