By now, I'm sure all of you have heard about the kid who ran on the field at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and got Tasered for his transgression. On the radio and on sports websites, there's been a lot of to-do about whether the officer overstepped his authority, and whether there should be changes to stadium policies going forward. Certainly there is some level of merit on each side of this discussion.
Those who argue that the officer acted excessively would point to the 99% of field trespassers who are similar to the boy who was Tasered; non-malicious, reckless, but not violently so. Most people who run onto the field are simply foolish people making foolish decisions, the kind of foolish decisions that a few more ladies in my zip code could afford to make.
Additionally, there's the legal concept of infraction versus punishment. Does the act of trespassing on the field of play warrant the use of a Taser to subdue the trespasser? Would we be comfortable with all trespassers on the field of play being Tasered?
The other side of the argument mostly points to the two jackasses (a father and son) who stormed onto the field in Chicago and attacked the Royals' first base coach Tom Gamboa. Would the threatening of Taser use have prevented the attack? That's a difficult question to answer. The father, by the way, received 30 months of probation...for battery...on TV.
Additionally, the use of a Taser to subdue suspects who are belligerent, violent, or attempt to escape has been accepted nationwide as a viable method. It has a regulated amount of charge, which theoretically prevents incidents of excessive police force. The Taser has been approved for civilian use in 43 states. The debate about the safety of Tasers rages on, but at least for today, they're considered part of the police officer's arsenal to "protect and serve."
I have trouble staying unbiased in these situations. As many of you know, my father was a police officer, and as a result, I view the average police officer as being honorable and responsible. Extending that sentiment towards all police officers is not necessarily rational, and I accept that. But I do believe that, as long as Tasers are considered safe and legal by state and local governments, they are an option for officers to use as instructed and as necessary.
The general concept people have is, "If a guy is violent, Tase him. If not, just run him down." What if Prefontaine decided he wanted to get on the field and prevent a game from ending? The guy could outrun any police officer, and probably several police officers, for ten, twenty, maybe thirty minutes? Or what if A.J. Hawk got loose on a baseball diamond? At any point, he could go from carefree dodger to shortstop crusher.
Now, pretend instead it's A.J. Feeley...but he's got a knife in his pocket. He's running around, la di da, but his plan is to stab Joakim Soria, because he's crazy, and he thinks if he stabs Soria, his White Sox will be able to beat whatever reliever comes in to replace him? I just think that anyone who invades the field of play already knows that they're going to be arrested, possibly tackled, definitely manhandled.
The reality is that you can't judge someone's intent when they run on the field, other than that they intend to stir something up. The only reason you run onto the field is if there's something on the field that you want to touch. For a lot of people, maybe most, it's just those three minutes of quasi-fame when the people in the stands watch to see how long you can run around before getting nabbed. For a few people, it's touching the jersey of their favorite player. For the very rare psychotic, it's injury, of themselves or others.
The Taser may seem a bit extreme, but it ends the incident quickly, and, according to most accounts, is independently safe. The kid who got Tased in Philadelphia is fine, other than being clearly mentally retarded. Seriously, he apparently called his dad to ask if he could run on the field? So not only is he a delinquent, but he's got some sense that his dad might encourage his activities? His mom seems to be the only sensible person, apologizing for the kid's idiotic act, and saying this gem, similar to something I'm sure we've all heard our mothers say: "It was stupid. It was just absolutely stupid."
I say, when you go on the field, you're aware that you're breaking the law, and doing it in broad daylight. You can't be surprised when you get Tased because you evade security. And I don't fault any officer who, after giving the person a chance to yield, uses appropriate force to end an encounter.
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