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May 4, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Excessive Force

by Colin Wyers

It seems that every so often, a baseball fan decides to become a larger part of the action than he should and steps onto the field. This is almost always a bad idea. Sometimes it leads to a really inspiring moment.

Most of the time, though, it leads to a brief interruption of the game for most fans, and a night in jail for the one responsible.

Last night, though, it resulted in a Tasing. Should it have?

Let’s start off by saying – the guy on the field was doing something he shouldn’t have been. And he seemed to be enjoying it precisely for that reason. Most of us have a natural inclination to dislike a guy who behaves that poorly in public, so it’s hard to muster too much sympathy for him. (And, for his part, he’s being charged with criminal trespassing.)

But that doesn’t really answer the question of whether or not he should have been Tased. Rights exist even for people who aren’t very likable. You can dislike the guy and what he did, and still argue that he shouldn’t have been dealt with in that fashion.

Let me go ahead and give you some background, so you know where I’m coming from on this. I spent five years in the Marine Corps. Along the way, I’ve had more training classes than I care to recall on things like use of force. I won’t pretend that this is exactly the same as being a cop (although there is more overlap between “policing” and “combat” roles these days than one might think). And I won’t pretend that the Marine Corps’ guidelines are the same everywhere. But I think there are some general principles I can broadly apply here.

At the root of the matter is the idea of proportionate force – using exactly as much force as is required to subdue the threat. In order to gauge what force was proportionate, we relied upon the continuum of force.

 1. Compliant (cooperative): Verbal commands.

 2. Resistant (passive): Contact controls.

 3. Resistant (active): Compliance techniques.

 4. Assaultive (bodily harm): Defensive tactics.

 5. Assaultive (serious bodily harm/death): Deadly force.

In this instance, the suspect was certainly not compliant (at least, we think – we have no idea if the officers issued any verbal commands, but I think we have to assume they did), but he was far from assaultive. There was no reason to think he was an imminent threat to commit bodily harm in any capacity.

Some here are going to say, “Well, he could have been.” Sure. But by that standard, you have to suspect that everyone could pose a threat of bodily harm. (And that’s really not a bad attitude to adopt, in certain circumstances.) But it’s not sufficient cause to escalate the force you’re willing to use – there’s no evidence that this person had any intent to cause harm.

So you’re left with the person being resistant, either active or passive. We’ll never know which – no effort was made to secure compliance through physical contact. If you grab a guy and he stops resisting, that’s passive resistance. If he starts to struggle, that’s active resistance. You can attempt to deal with active resistance through several means – the phrase “compliance techniques” really means the application of physical pain in such a way as to minimize the risk of serious harm.

Yes, it’s physically demanding work. And there is some slight risk of personal harm (although if you’re a guy that size and you can’t take down a kid that size, you might want to find a line of work that doesn’t involve physical security). But that’s what these guys are paid for.

The simple fact of the matter is that there were several, lesser alternatives to Tasing that were appropriate to the situation at hand and that should have been tried before resorting to more severe means of gaining compliance. That they weren’t at the very least speaks poorly of the judgment of the officer involved.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

71 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

OonBoon

'Some here are going to say, “Well, he could have been.” Sure. But by that standard, you have to suspect that everyone could pose a threat of bodily harm'

Let me be the first, but with one qualifier: You have to suspect that everyone - who intentionally and without authorization enters onto the field during a professional sporting event- could pose a threat of bodily harm.

Better to taze 600 goofy teenagers than let one more athlete get stabbed by a psycho. There's a large element of trust involved for a man to stand alone in a field of grass amongst 50,000 hostile humans, some drunk, some crazy, some impulsive. A zero tolerance policy with tazers on full is the only way to foster this complete trust, short of outfield fences topped with razor wire and snipers perched in the light towers.

May 04, 2010 13:33 PM
rating: 4
 
BillJohnson

I have a two-word answer to this analysis: Monica Seles.

May 04, 2010 13:36 PM
rating: 4
 
tommybones

For every Monica Seles there are a dozen harmless citizens killed by tazer-happy cops. “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

Taze first, assess threat later is not worthy of a free country.

May 04, 2010 14:02 PM
rating: -1
 
JD Sussman

Though, once one unlawfully enters the playing field one has given up his/her liberty, it wasn't taken from him/her. The trespasser had a choice and he made the wrong one. His actions had repressions.

Now, that doesn't mean the proper protocol is to unleash a tazer on someone (nor am I honestly advocating the use of the tazer, even if I may have jokingly done so else where). The use of the tazer in this situation will hopefully be a deterrent in the future.

May 04, 2010 14:49 PM
rating: 3
 
tommybones

"Though, once one unlawfully enters the playing field one has given up his/her liberty"

Wrong. His liberty is intact. He is protected against abuse of power by law enforcement. That's the question here. Is electrocution acceptable use of force to subdue a teenager playing a harmless prank? Police officers aren't free to do whatever they want, simply because someone allegedly violated a law. We as a society need to ask ourselves if this is acceptable. But when we ask ourselves this question, we need to make sure we understand that we could be the next one zapped with 10,000 volts for arguing about a traffic ticket.

May 04, 2010 15:00 PM
rating: 4
 
cdoyle31

At this risk of being a pedantic a-hole, "electrocution" is a specific term for a heart being stopped by an electric shock. The kid received an electric shock from the taser, but didn't die, so he wasn't electrocuted. But he could have been electrocuted — hundreds of people have — by way of the taser's use, which makes its application in this circumstance 100 percent unacceptable.

Apologies.

May 04, 2010 20:23 PM
rating: 1
 
John Collins
(110)

tommybones wasn't saying that tasering is electrocution. He was merely point out the absurdity of the claim that when someone breaks the rules they forfeit all their rights, including the right not be electrocuted for a petty crime.

May 05, 2010 13:21 PM
rating: 1
 
John Collins
(110)

OK, I see from later comments he does think tazing is electrocution. Apologies.

May 05, 2010 13:24 PM
rating: 2
 
Bob
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

the guy who stabbed Monica Seles never went out on the court. Should we tase everyone in the stands too? After all, Monica Seles...

May 04, 2010 17:56 PM
rating: -4
 
Dan W.

Not true. He stabbed her while she was sitting in a chair during a change-over. He might not have crossed the in/out lines, but he wasn't in the stands.

May 05, 2010 07:04 AM
rating: 2
 
Bob

Really? I could have sworn he reached over from the first row, but I stand corrected upon your word (I can't bring myself to watch that episode again).

May 05, 2010 08:17 AM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

What happened to the citizens of this country? When did we become so overcome with fear that we embrace totalitarian tactics and a police state? The above comments are typical nowadays and it's attitudes like these which inevitably lead to the loss of civil liberties for everyone. How anyone can say, "better to taze 600 goofy teenagers... " in any serious way, is a sad testament to where we are headed. Since when is it okay for teenagers to be electrocuted when they show no indication of being a threat? And this isn't an isolated incident. Police officers have been tazing people as a first resort with regularity, regardless of the ALLEGED offense. A pregnant woman was tazed three times because she refused to sign a speeding ticket, which had her going 32 in a 30mph zone. Where does it end? People die way too often by this lazy approach to law enforcement and it will never stop so long as the population grants them this power by approving of these egregious actions (when done to other people's kids).

May 04, 2010 13:44 PM
rating: 12
 
Matt Kory

Agree completely. Well said.

May 04, 2010 13:54 PM
rating: 0
 
andyfoy

I agree, although I'm probably not as passionate about it. I just think if law enforcement starts a trend of tazing people because they're too lazy to tackle, we could run into some serious problems.

Taze the hell out of anyone posing a serious threat, but not a drunk guy waving a shirt around.

May 04, 2010 14:02 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

The trend is already underway and is amassing quite a track record at this point. Anybody interested in learning more about the topic should read DIGBY's blog, as she's been all over this topic for years.

May 04, 2010 14:03 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Equating this situation to the tazing of the pregnant woman is ridiculous, as it would be to equate it to the many other situations where a Tazer was used inappropriately on someone who'd already stopped resisting. This kid had NOT stopped resisting and was very much still on the loose, under conditions explicitly cited as a no-no when he bought the ticket. The situations simply are not comparable.

May 04, 2010 14:25 PM
rating: 7
 
tommybones

Seriously? We are talking about a teenager who clearly was not threatening anyone being ELECTROCUTED. No, it's not the same, but it IS part of a pattern where police officers use electrocution against non-violent citizens. You may not be aware of it, but even the U.N. has declared Tazer use a form of torture.

You call my comparison "ridiculous" yet it is you who seems to think it's okay to torture a citizen who is not a threat and merely involved in a petty prank. If that isn't ridiculous then I don't know what is.

May 04, 2010 14:50 PM
rating: -2
 
tbwhite
(361)

First of all we need to drop the fact that he was a teenager the discussion, at the time of the incident no one involved knew the guy's age. Stressing that he was a teenager and not an adult, colors people's perception of the event in an unfair way.

Second, you have no idea what that guy's mental state was. Neither did the security personnel.

Third, Citizen's Bank Park is not a public park, it is not a public space, he was trespassing on private property. I am curious as to whether the police officer was officially "on-duty" or if he was being paid by the Phillies. I would expect that the Phillies would have the right to decide appropriate force to use in crimes committed on their property. If someone breaks in to my house, they surely have forfeited their liberty as far as I'm concerned, and I doubt any judge, jury or DA would have a problem with a homeowner tasering a tresspasser in their house.

May 04, 2010 17:05 PM
rating: 8
 
tommybones

That's brilliant. Talk about unreasonable comparisons. Did you see the video? How can you compare with a break-in of a private residence? An obviously young man, no doubt a teenager, was making a clown of himself, like we have all seen a hundred times before. He had no weapon and was not acting aggressively in any way toward anyone, yet you think that the appropriate remedy is to torture him?

May 04, 2010 17:30 PM
rating: -1
 
tbwhite
(361)

Yes, I saw the video. Unfortunately, I guess I'm not as well trained as you and was unable to definitively ascertain his age or intentions. Where does one obtain such expertise, have you thought about a career in law enforcement ? I'm sure they could use people like you who have all the answers.

Why don't you explain to everyone again why it is that people have the right to trespass on private property, behave like an idiot, possibly pose a threat to innocent bystanders, and still be treated with kid gloves ? He was not in a public space, he was on private property. To enter that private property one must willingly allow one's possessions to be searched, and in some cases you must submit to a pat down. Your ticket which allows you entrance to the private property carefully spells out the rules which must be followed, as well as precautions which should be taken to avoid personal injury. I don't see how anyone can attend a major sporting event and believe that are in a public venue and therefore guaranteed all rights they would enjoy in say city hall or a public park. You can be ejected from a stadium for foul language, is that fair ? What about freedom of speech ? Oh, right, you check that at the door don't you ?

And please stop with the torture crap, torture is a terrible thing and those who cry wolf about it do a tremendous disservice. I mean why don't you get it over with and liken the Phillie Phanatic to Hitler, that's what's coming next right, the Hitler comparison ?

May 04, 2010 17:54 PM
rating: 2
 
jayman4

The guy was running around on a prank. Yes, against the rules, but seems like a cost of doing business when you invite 50k people to your sanctified "private property". Please stop using the analogy of breaking into your home.

You stop, corral him, kick him out, press charges that are hard to defeat (hard to argue against the charges when you are on video running onto the field). Seems like enough punishment. But a potentially fatal use of force? Frightening, to me, that people adamantly support this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taser_safety_issues#Risks_of_death_or_serious_injuries

This says 180-277 people have died since mid 2000s after they were tasered. Not necessarily caused by Tasers, but died in conjunction with their use.

May 04, 2010 18:17 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

"... was unable to definitively ascertain his age or intentions"

You are seriously going to publicly state that you weren't able to ascertain his intentions? Okay, you're not very observant, so I'll give you a pass. That is beside the point. Did you see him act aggressively toward anyone? No. Did you see a weapon? No. So he was not acting aggressive nor had a weapon, so you believe he should be electrocuted? Here's where we disagree.

"Why don't you explain to everyone again why it is that people have the right to trespass on private property, behave like an idiot, possibly pose a threat to innocent bystanders, and still be treated with kid gloves ?"

This is a classic example of a strawman argument. Nowhere in any post of mine will you find these opinions. I've never made any claim that people have the rights you just listed. We are discussing whether the apprehension of this apparent lawbreaker was lawful and appropriate. I believe electrocuting a harmless prankster is an abuse of power. You apparently don't think so.

"And please stop with the torture crap, torture is a terrible thing and those who cry wolf about it do a tremendous disservice."

The United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights has declared that use of a taser is an act of torture. I happen to agree. Shooting 10,000 volts of electricity into someone's body sounds like torture to me, but I guess it's all relative, right? After all, the extreme pain only lasts a few seconds and the marks only last a few days. No biggie. That'll teach the prankster a lesson.

"what's coming next right, the Hitler comparison"

Godwin's Law! I love it! But since you asked...

"What one can blame them [German politicians and populace] for, and what shows their terrible collective weakness of character, is that this settled the matter. With sheepish submissiveness the German people accepted that, as a result of the fire, each one of them lost what little personal freedom and dignity was guaranteed by the Constitution; as though it followed as a necessary consequence. If the Communists burned down the Reichstag, it was perfectly in order that the government took "decisive measures." - German Lawyer Sebastian Haffner, lamenting on the restricted civil liberties imposed under Hitler in response to the terrorist bombings of the German Parliament building in Berlin. The reduction of civil liberties after the Reichstag attack is seen by historians as the first in a series of steps taken by Hitler, which eventually led to the destruction of the German democracy.

May 04, 2010 18:26 PM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

Yes. I am seriously, publicly stating that. Only a fool would assert otherwise.

This is really the essential difference. Those of you who believe that it was obviously and patently a prank think that the taser was excessive. Those of us who disagree or aren't sure, aren't comfortable with security assuming anything about the intentions of the person running on the field, as that transfers the risk of injury from the perpetrator to the innocent bystanders.

I love how you say "apparent" lawbreaker, as if there is some doubt about whether the jackass broke any laws.

The cop who shot the guy with the taser really only knew a few things for sure, the person on the field was younger and faster than him, and was willing to recklessly disregard laws and rules. He didn't know if he was 15, 17, 19, 23 or 25. He didn't know if he had a concealed weapon on him. He didn't know if he was mentally unstable, drunk or just stupid. Given that, why on earth should the clown running in the field get the benefit of the doubt ? Let's assume for a minute that something awful had to happen last night and someone on the field had to die. Should it have been a ballplayer or umpire because security assumed the guy was a prankster, and not a psycho with a knife ? Should it have been a security guy from having a heart attack chasing the idiot around ? Or should that very small risk have been assumed by the idiot who broke the law and put himself in harms way ?

Finally:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boy_Who_Cried_Wolf

While it may be true that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, at the opposite end of the spectrum Chicken Little's desensitize us to real risks. Likening a teenage moron getting taser'd to torture is ridiculous when real torture continues to go on in the world today. Get up in arms about that, not some 17 year old jerk off in Philly, you undermine and belittle your own cause when you do that.

May 04, 2010 20:28 PM
rating: -1
 
tommybones

So, in your worldview, we torture alleged offenders first, assess the threat later? We need not have any indication of a threat in order to use a form of torture to subdue someone? That's a police state, chief. And it is torture. The tackle halts the activity of the offending individual through restraint. Can one get hurt through a tackle? Sure. But the goal of a tackle is to restrain, not injure. The taser's only function is to halt the activity through INFLICTION OF PAIN. Infliction of pain, in order to get another human being to do what you want him to do is textbook torture. Just because the kid is not strapped to a board in a back room somewhere doesn't negate this fact.

A police officer's job is to use the least amount of acceptable force in apprehending the alleged offender (and yes, in the officer's mind, this is an alleged offender, because we have things called trials, which determine guilt or innocence). When an officer inflicts enormous pain to an alleged offender, who has shown NO INDICATION OF ANY VIOLENT INTENT, he is using excessive force and in fact PUNISHING an alleged offender with a technique banned in numerous nations as being a form of torture. He is not merely apprehending someone to charge and put on trial in a court of law, he is inflicting severe pain when other techniques of restraint were available to him. I don't see how this is acceptable in a civilized society. Once this door is opened and officers are allowed to use severe pain to subdue non-violent offenders, where does it go next? Where does it lead? You want to wait to find out before being a "good man who does something"?

May 05, 2010 05:26 AM
rating: 1
 
tbwhite
(361)

In my worldview a person who has already broken one law(by running on the field) has forfeited the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions. Making assumptions about that person's next actions rather than taking them down as quickly as possible transfers the risk of injury from the one person who has already broken a law, to the officers and innocent bystanders in the area. That's unacceptable.

A taser's function is not to halt activity through the infliction of pain, it halts it by temporarily paralysis, the pain is a side effect.

In your worldview, parents who spank their children are guilty of torture ? Children are human beings, spanking involves pain, and it's generally administered to stop an unwanted behavior.

A police officer has to do their job in the moment, with imperfect information. Second guessing after the fact with perfect information must be done carefully. If there is someone to blame in this case I would argue it's whoever made the decision to arm the cops with tasers, not the cop who was just trying to do his job as best as possible.

May 05, 2010 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

Where to begin. Your answer here terrifies me.

"In my worldview a person who has already broken one law (by running on the field) has forfeited the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions."

This is essentially saying a police officer can do anything he wants to an alleged criminal without limits. If you are to take this concept seriously and now claim anyone who violates a law can be seen as a violent threat, even when there is no indication of being a violent threat, then police officers would be justified in using brutal force for any alleged offense. Talk about a police state. Are you serious?

"A taser's function is not to halt activity through the infliction of pain, it halts it by temporarily paralysis, the pain is a side effect."

Wow. I'm stunned... so to speak. A side effect?

"In your worldview, parents who spank their children are guilty of torture ?"

Strawman alert! Show me where I ever said anything about spanking being torture... I'll wait. Comparing spanking with jolting someone with up to 50,000 volts of electricity is quite a stretch. As an aside, I do think spanking is ridiculous.

May 05, 2010 09:12 AM
rating: -1
 
tbwhite
(361)

You're easily scared then.

Wow, talk about strawmen. I never said a cop can do anything to an alleged criminal without limits. You are demanding that the cop in this case should have "known" that the person on the field was not dangerous and did not have bad intentions. In other words, given that most similar incidents have not resulted in assaults on players/umpires the guy should be given the benefit of the doubt and therefore treated very carefully. All I'm suggesting is that given that athletes have been stabbed, and umpires assaulted at professional sports events, I don't believe it is appropriate to assume ANYTHING about the intentions of someone who decides to run on the field. That person has already displayed a reckless disregard for law, and was actively evading arrest. That is quite different from a pregnant woman arguing a traffic ticket. She was guilty of at most a traffic violation carrying with it a small fine, and was not actively evading the officer. The person who ran onto the field had already committed a more serious offense and was destined to spend the night in jail.

Yes, that would be side effect. If it was just meant to inflict pain that could probably be done with a smaller shock, the point is to temporarily paralyze the person.

'A Taser is an electroshock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles. Its manufacturer, Taser International, calls the effects "neuromuscular incapacitation"

Tasers primarily function by creating neuromuscular incapacitation, which means that it interrupts the ability of the brain to control the muscles in the body. This creates an immediate and unavoidable incapacitation that is not based on pain and cannot be overcome. Many subjects of police intervention experience little to no pain due to intoxication, extreme motivation, or otherwise, which therefore makes other techniques nearly useless[citation needed]. Once the electricity stops flowing the subject immediately regains control of their body. Most subjects after being Tasered once will comply so as to avoid being Tasered a second time.' - this is from Wikipedia so caveats may apply.

I'm just using your definition. Are children human beings ? Check. Does spanking inflict pain ? Check. Is it intended to stop a particular behavior ? Check. It is torture according to your definition. If you would like to amend your definition feel free, but that's my point. By so loosely defining something as repugnant as torture, you actually minimize it in the minds of people and make it even easier for them to ignore it when it actually happens. For someone who professes to care about this issue you ought to be more careful.

May 05, 2010 09:32 AM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

" I never said a cop can do anything to an alleged criminal without limits. You are demanding that the cop in this case should have "known" that the person on the field was not dangerous and did not have bad intentions."

This is amazing. You say you are not claiming a police officer can do anything in the first sentence, then follow by claiming the officer must ASSUME violent intent, which would inherently REQUIRE and JUSTIFY use of force on numerous levels. If someone had a knife, they certainly would be a threat and an officer would be justified in tasing them. What you are claiming is that everyone should be seen as having a knife, even if there is no indication of one being present. So, alleged petty offenders are to be assumed violent and dealt with violently. That is horrific.

"That person has already displayed a reckless disregard for law, and was actively evading arrest."

Non-violent offense being dealt with through administering extreme pain and suffering. Again, the officer's job is to arrest and detain, the court decides punishment, if one is warranted. Is extreme pain a punishment? You bet your ass it is. What if the alleged offender is innocent of the alleged crime? Whoops. Sorry about that 50k volts, but you were acting like a clown, so....

Listen, you can parse words by claiming pain is a side-effect all day long, but it is INHERENTLY PAINFUL and to most it's EXTREMELY painful and all too often fatal. A tackle COULD be painful, but it's not inherently painful and hardly ever EXTREMELY painful.

If you want to live in a world where state officials hold the power to shoot electricity into you or your family based on alleged petty non-violent offenses, then that's up to you. I find it abhorrent.

"By so loosely defining something as repugnant as torture... "

You're the one trying to compare a mere spanking with a state official shooting 50k volts of electricity into you... not me.

May 05, 2010 09:48 AM
rating: -2
 
tbwhite
(361)

You just refuted your own argument. If he had a knife the taser was justified. Did we know for sure he did not have a knife ? No. Was there a chance he was intending to harm someone ? Yes. And he had already shown a disregard for law by running on to the field and was actively evading police. The officer used what according to his training was appropriate non-lethal force to subdue the guy.

I'm not going to deny that people have died from tasering, or that it causes pain. But to describe it as extreme pain and suffering is hyperbole. Probably everyone has seen a local reporter get tased on TV when the local police force buys tasers for the first time. Likewise, as I believe someone pointed out somewhere else, I believe it is common practice that any officer issued a taser has in fact been tased themselves. Given it's common use, and that people don't seem to be reluctant to volunteer to have it done to them, I think calling it EXTREME pain and suffering is perhaps a wee bit exaggerated.

Here's a clip on Philly Police taser training, sounds terrible:

http://www.philly.com/dailynews/multimedia/Taser_Training.html


What does all too often fatal mean ? You seem anxious to put other people at risk, to prevent these taser deaths it's incumbent on you to give us some facts, how many people really die from it, what are the hard numbers ?

People aren't guaranteed a night in jail for petty non-violent offenses, since there is such a guarantee for running onto the field I would argue it is obviously not deemed as "petty".

Can't you answer a simple question ? How does spanking not qualify as torture under your definition ? Simply asserting that it doesn't isn't good enough. Unless you're ok with that Arizona immigration law, since they say they won't engage in racial profiling who cares how sloppily the law was written ?

May 05, 2010 11:02 AM
rating: 2
 
tommybones

"You just refuted your own argument."

I most certainly didn't.

"Was there a chance he was intending to harm someone ? Yes."

This is my point. Your logic, which holds that EVERYONE IS A RISK OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR, necessitates that police use violent force to apprehend anyone, regardless of infraction or obvious violent intent. Why can't you see this???? You are saying, quite clearly, that police are free to violently attack anyone who committed any crime, based on the idea that they "could" be violent, regardless of whether the alleged criminal shows any signs of becoming violent. This is INSANE.

"You seem anxious to put other people at risk... "

Nonsense. I am anxious to protect the civil rights of citizens from excessive force being used by the state.

"How does spanking not qualify as torture under your definition?"

You realize that even official commissions on torture don't label every action which results in some pain, "torture," either. The level of pain inflicted is quite different and it's a parent/child relationship over a state/civilian relationship. You understand that there is a legal limit to hitting a child, right? I can guarantee if someone chose to taser their child as punishment for stealing from the cookie jar, they'd be charged with child abuse. In any case, a minor is legally under the care of a parent. The police are servants of the public, charged with upholding the Constitution. The idea that they have the power to inflict severe pain and suffering to a non-violent ALLEGED criminal, prior to due process is a violation of the tenets of our justice system.

The problem with your defense is that it completely ignores the slippery slope. Where is the line? When it's okay for an officer to shoot 50,000 volts into a trespasser, who shows no signs of violent intent, nor has any visible weapons, then when is it not okay for an officer to use a taser? The moment we accept violent state responses to non-violent infractions, we open the door to increased abuse. That door has already been opened in regard to tasers, which were sold as a replacement for a gun or club, but are regularly used in situations where neither a club nor a gun would have been appropriate. Once you give the state the power to control your actions with a simple pull of a trigger, hiding behind the "it's not lethal" charade, then you are now in a situation where you must FEAR police officers in circumstances where you shouldn't. I don't know about you, but I've gotten pissed off at a traffic cop for writing a bogus ticket in the past. Now, if he has a taser on his belt, I'll think twice about exercising my 1st Amendment right to object to the ticket. That's how it begins.

May 05, 2010 12:07 PM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

You never specified any level of pain in your previous definition, nor did you specify that it could only happen in a state/civilian relationship. I still think it's a pretty poor definition but it's getting better.

Definitions matter by the way, I'm sure you are upset at Arizona for their new law regarding immigrants. Now there's something worth fighting against.

Anyway, back to the taser. So, if the Phillies had their own security force and armed them with tasers, and a Phillies employee tasered the guy, that would not have been torture ? Correct ? Perhaps assault, but not torture ? Actually I'm very curious about that issue, was the officer actually there as a Philly Cop, or had the Phillies contracted with the city to provide security ? I know the Yankees hire cops for security, I'm curious as to how that works. Are they essentially sub-contractors of the baseball team, and not Govt. employees or officers of the state when they work at the game ? It seems like that could be very relevant here. I would expect that acting officially as a police officer a person would have more restraints on their behavior than if they were a private security guard working on private property.

I understand getting pissed at a cop for writing a ticket, and maybe he's wrong, but exercising your 1st Amendment right in that situation is just stupid. Take it to court. Use your 1st Amendment right there, the cop is just trying to do his job, he might be completely wrong but the odds of you convincing him are pretty slim, so what do you hope to accomplish by arguing with him ?

May 05, 2010 14:01 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

By the way, the fact that many of my posts have been voted as being unworthy of viewing by others is a sad commentary on them, not me. I have long studied this particular topic and whether one agrees with my position or not, to insist that my opinions are not worthy of being viewed is an embarrassment in a debate about civil liberties.

But it doesn't surprise me.

May 05, 2010 12:47 PM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

Yes you are a martyr for your cause. Before you get too excited though, recognize that as people vote once you hit -4 you get flagged like that. It's not indicative that people want to shut you up, just that more people disagree with you than agree. We have no control over the cutoff used for when blocking of posts begins, or even that it happens at all. Take that up with BP, not the people indicating their disagreement with your posts.

May 05, 2010 13:44 PM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

tommybones, your arguments are valid to a certain degree, but contextually they are wrong.

At a sporting event, there is a great deal of trust had by all, especially those on the field with 25-50 thousand people surrounding them. Once that trust is broken, the use of a taser is completely reasonable.

This is the world we live in. Until the penalty for entering a field of play is more than just a slap on the wrist, teams should do what they can to eliminate any threat as quickly as possible once someone is on the field. The kid got up like nothing happened, he wanted his 15 minutes of fame and got it.

May 05, 2010 17:09 PM
rating: 2
 
bixology

Your setting up a straw man.

Waterboarding is torture too, but I'm not being tortured if I bump into the coffee table while drinking Mr. Pibb.

And this kid wasn't tortured either. It just doesn't fit. You can debate the excessive force aspect, but please don't analogize it to torture.

Was this kid doing something he shouldn't have been? Most definitely. Was he resisting arrest? Yes. Should he have been tased? Probably not either.

My only argument with the above article is the assertion that "no effort was made to secure compliance with physical force". I would characterize the chasing as just that. The question is if and when enough is enough.

It's quite easy to criticize law enforcement, and not very helpful either. Nor is comparison to other incidents. It is a fine line to try to figure out on the spot in front of 40,000 whether the age of someone and whether they present a threat. On the one hand, you have this incident, on the other, you have the Seles incident or that of the father and son assault on the KC first base coach of a couple years ago.

The officer probably isn't thrilled right now at how it turned out either. But, I'll bet he'd feel worse if someone did get hurt by someone running on the field.

Again, it's a fine line, and the ex post facto judging isn't as cut and dry as everyone wants it to be.

May 04, 2010 22:32 PM
rating: 6
 
tommybones

Strawman, really?

Ignoring the official position of the United Nations on the subject, let's simply look at what a taser does compared with a tackle. The tackle halts the activity of the offending individual through restraint. Can one get hurt through a tackle? Sure. But the goal of a tackle is to restrain, not injure. The taser's only function is to halt the activity through INFLICTION OF PAIN. Infliction of pain, in order to get another human being to do what you want him to do is textbook torture. Just because the kid is not strapped to a board in a back room somewhere doesn't negate this fact.

"It's quite easy to criticize law enforcement, and not very helpful either."

It's your RESPONSIBILITY to criticize law enforcement and all public officials for that matter.

May 05, 2010 04:53 AM
rating: -1
 
tbwhite
(361)

The problem is that your hysterics about a police state ultimately lead to people not listening or paying attention to your warnings. You're part of the problem too.

There must be thousands upon thousands of traffic stops each day, probably millions per year, and there's what one video of a cop a tasering someone ? You make some serious allegations(cops taze people as first resort regularly) but without any real numbers or evidence. How often do people really die when taser'd ?

May 04, 2010 18:10 PM
rating: 6
 
tommybones

All I can say is this taser issue isn't new to me. I've been following it very closely for years and in great detail. The problem is real and it's truly frightening.

May 05, 2010 05:49 AM
rating: -2
 
tbwhite
(361)

That's fine, I don't doubt that the unintended consequences of arming cops with tasers might outweigh the intended good. But, I think you do your argument a disservice by making such a big deal out of this case. The pregnant woman with the speeding ticket yes, the guy trying to evade security while running on the baseball field no. And while I can imagine that a taser could be used as an instrument of torture, that doesn't make every use of it torture. When the video came out of the pregnant woman being tasered, no one claimed the cop tortured her. Obviously he was egregiously wrong in that case, but no one seriously suggested he had tortured the woman. Making claims like that just turns people off who might otherwise agree with you.

May 05, 2010 08:23 AM
rating: -1
 
tommybones

We're having a semantics issue. I am not claiming the officers INTENT was to torture someone. But threatening someone with a massive jolt of electricity, which is extremely painful, in order for them to comply is the essence of what torture is all about. We should be afraid of the law, not law enforcement. When it becomes acceptable for law enforcement to inflict enormous pain on alleged non-violent offenders who have shown no indication of being violent, then we have crossed into very dangerous territory. I know, at this point, I am taking a huge chance if I decide to disagree with a police officer who pulls me over. Is it my Constitutional right to disagree with a police officer? You bet your ass it is. But nowadays, I know that could very easily result in 50k volts being shot into me, as happens way too often. And until we stop treating it as a funny reality show on You-tube, it's only going to get worse.

In any case, if you want to avoid looking at shocking people with enormously painful jolts of electricity as a form of torture, that's up to you. Either way, it's using extreme pain and punishment for non-violent alleged offenses, which shouldn't acceptable to anyone. I do not want that power in the hands of the state. Perhaps acknowledging it as being a form of torture would take the humor out of it.

May 05, 2010 09:26 AM
rating: -2
 
tommybones

From a random googled article:

The U.N. Committee Against Torture referred Friday to the use of TaserX26 weapons which Portuguese police has acquired. An expert had testified to the committee that use of the weapons had "proven risks of harm or death."

"The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use," the committee said in a statement.

"Well, it means that it's a very serious thing," Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox told CBS Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "These are people that have seen torture around the world, all kinds of torture. So they don't use the word lightly."

Tasers have become increasingly controversial in the United States, particularly after several notorious cases where their use by police to disable suspects was questioned as being excessive. Especially disturbing is the fact that six adults died after being tased by police in the span of a week.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/25/national/main3537803.shtml

May 05, 2010 09:56 AM
rating: -1
 
LouisArighi

One minor quibble: is running away not considered "resistant (active)"? I understand that he hasn't pulled away from a grip, but running away from an officer seems awfully. . . active, I think is the word.

May 04, 2010 13:51 PM
rating: 8
 
Jay Taylor

I agree...mostly. My only question is whether or not tackling is the "safer" approach then tasing. Yes there is the occasional death from tasing, but getting into a fight isn't exactly safe.

I'm sure someone out there has done a study on which is more likely to end in bodily harm: tasing or tackling.
I'd be curious to see.

Ultimately, I lean towards thinking it was excessive. However, they needed to stop the guy somehow.

May 04, 2010 14:09 PM
rating: 4
 
dalbano

Is it excessive because it was the first time someone has been tazed for running onto a field of play?

If so, is it less excessive if your ticket stub warns of being tazed should you choose to run onto the field?

I have to believe every GM/Owner in the league would rather deal with a tazed individual than have to worry about one of their on-field investments getting assaulted.

If you are going to break the law, prepare to be dealt with. Tazing has become an accepted approach to subdue someone who is non-compliant with traditional measures.

I agree, he should have been tackled. Guys that run out on fields have certainly recieved worse on an NFL field of play.

This guy was lucky he didn't break anything.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC3xNSiRTDc

May 04, 2010 14:39 PM
rating: 3
 
R.A.Wagman

Accepted by whom?

May 04, 2010 15:35 PM
rating: 1
 
dalbano

Accepted by every public agency that maintains a cache of tazers.

May 04, 2010 20:35 PM
rating: 3
 
OonBoon

What's your solution then? Whack the kid over the head with a billy club? What if the officer had used a lasso?

What about the rights of the police officer and of the players themselves? The rights of the law abiding citizens and the enforcement officer are paramount to concerns for the CRIMINAL. Why should the police officer be forced to put his own physical well-being in jeopardy? The offender could have come out biting, scratching, pulled a knife, whatever.

May 04, 2010 15:53 PM
rating: 2
 
OonBoon

This was supposed to have been a reply to tommybones

May 04, 2010 15:54 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Use of excessive force should be limited to when there is reasonable grounds for belief that the offender was endangering the well-being (not just the patience) of others.

May 04, 2010 15:58 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

Oh, I don't know, how about tackle him like we've seen for decades in prior examples of stupid people acting like clowns by running onto the field? Then you arrest him, charge him and send him to court. In any case, a tackle is infinitely more humane and safer than electrocution and would satisfy the necessary amount of force needed to apprehend the prankster.

May 04, 2010 17:32 PM
rating: -3
 
tbwhite
(361)

How do you know tackling is safer ? How many taser'd people actually die ? Where are your numbers ? What are the injury numbers for people tackled by security ? Do you have a break down by sober vs drunk ? Maybe drunks are less likely to be hurt by a tackle, I believe they are more likely to survive a car crash. Maybe security should give the guy a brethalyzer and a full medical history and then decide the most humane way to apprehend the person.

May 04, 2010 18:01 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

In Canada, albeit a much smaller country with a vastly smaller rate of violent crime than the US, there have been 16 cases of Taser-induced death between 2003 and 2007. As we tend to do, much debate, nation-wide has been expended on the proper use of the Taser. Safer than guns, but not infallible.

May 04, 2010 18:16 PM
rating: 2
 
tbwhite
(361)

That's 3 per year, out of how many uses ? More people die falling down the steps in their house. Granted people make many more trips up and down stairs than get taser'd, but still, if it is as common as some people claim it is, 3 deaths per year doesn't seem like a lot. Personally, I'd rather be taser'd than have a bunch of pissed off cops with billy clubs "apprehend me". That's when you really need to be in a public space or you'll get your face re-arranged.

That's why I'm not so sure that tasering isn't more humane overall. Maybe not to that kid on the field last night, but in general if cops used tasers instead of billy clubs, it probably would be more humane.

May 04, 2010 18:23 PM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

That's the point of all this whole article - not that Tasers are bad per se, but that they were out of line as far as their use on some twerp running around the field. Were he making a bee-line to a specific player, on the other hand, we may have leeway for thinking his intentions were a bit more nefarious.

May 04, 2010 18:27 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

The problem is that we were told the tazer would replace bill clubs but see quite often that the tazer is used where no billy club would have ever been used. You think the pregnant woman would have been clubbed for not signing her speeding ticket 10 years ago? Me neither. You think that kid on the field would have been clubbed a few years ago? Don't think so.

May 04, 2010 18:35 PM
rating: 4
 
tbwhite
(361)

That's a fair point. I don't know how you do that math. Does a reduction in beatings make up for more people getting taser'd ?

May 04, 2010 20:31 PM
rating: 0
 
dalbano

Honestly, we might as well say that society has gone to sh!t because there isn't enough harsh punishment for the things people do anymore. Kids don't get spanked, they get timeouts. This sort of thing wouldn't be an issue if parents acted like parents and not tried to be a kid's friend all of the time.

My kid calls me and says he's thinking about going on the field, he better know a taser will be the least of his problems when he gets home.

May 04, 2010 20:45 PM
rating: 1
 
ccweinmann

My friend ran out onto Safeco Field on the 5th or 6th day after it opened in 1999 and evaded the guys running after him for a solid 2 minutes before getting absolutely nailed by a 220 pound security dude. The two minute chase, and the culminating flying tackle take-down were great entertainment. Unfortunately, my friend's body has been damaged ever since. I'm going to guess that Tasing is safer for all concerned than tackling.

May 04, 2010 16:14 PM
rating: 8
 
LynchMob

This is obviously small-sample-size and anecdotal ... but I like it!

I'm with Louis Arighi ... the running away sure seems "active" to me ... so ... the question, for me, becomes: if "active", then OK to use "Compliance techniques"? Sure. And if OK to use Compliance techniques, then OK to taze? Sure.

From what little I've read about the risk of tazing, the riskiest is when it's done to the chest ... so in this case, the risk seems below-average for use-of-taser.

The hard question for me is how to respond to allegations of law enforcement officials using a taser on a person putting up passive resistance to getting a speeding ticket. I don't think anyone wants that to be acceptable. Being a good law enforcement official is hard ... failures are going to happen ... and dealing with them is necessary (and difficult in many ways) ... but this incident does not seem like a failure of law enforcement.

May 05, 2010 07:44 AM
rating: 1
 
Bob

I think we should all run out on the field at Citizens Bank Park. After all, we the taxpayers paid for it. It's our field and we should be able to use it, not just pay exorbitant amounts of money just to look at it.

May 04, 2010 17:59 PM
rating: 4
 
Bob

does anyone remember in the 1980s when some woman (I think it was the same woman each time) used to run on to various major league fields and kiss star players? I remember seeing her do it to Cal Ripken early in his career. She definitely wasn't tased.

Then there was the guy who parachuted onto the Shea Stadium playing surface during the 1986 World Series. I think I remember hearing all the Mets players chipped in to bail the guy out of jail.

May 04, 2010 19:55 PM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

Morgana was her name, she should have been tased as she was housing instruments of mass distraction.

May 04, 2010 20:29 PM
rating: 7
 
Bob

thanks.

May 05, 2010 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan W.

Morganna the Kissing Bandit, to be precise.

May 05, 2010 07:10 AM
rating: 0
 
smitty

Morganna started in the early 70s. I remember Jim Bouton writing about her in his second book.

May 05, 2010 08:56 AM
rating: 0
 
Sophist

Every time this gets posted with a comments section, the reasonable debate turns into one on how much force is in a tase. People have very different intuitions. The use in this case looked a lot like the use for which the thing was designed: quick detainment of an uncooperative criminal. The Commissioner of Philly PD backs the security cop fwiw.

This is one issue where the comments section here looks not much different than one on ESPN.com. I wonder why that is. Isn't this disputed incidents of death number a counting stat?

As a point of contrast, I find it interesting that this incident occurred a day before the 40th anniversary of the Kent State incident. Talk about different generations.

Another fan, this one 33 years old, disrupted play during the 9th tonight. Really messed with Hamels' mojo. Was quite a ballgame otherwise.

May 04, 2010 22:23 PM
rating: 1
 
Bob

This video illustrates that there is clearly an art to entering the playing surface as a fan and to dealing with such intrusions as players or security. See Morgana, the Kissing Bandit, at number 6. Nolan Ryan should have been given an award for his taser-free embrace of the woman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUoQd4GAUpY

May 05, 2010 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

Some of those guys would have been lucky to have been tased before they got the crap beat out of them.

So, the lesson here is that the guy the other night should have been streaking, so that there could have been no doubt about his intentions.

May 05, 2010 08:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Bob

yes, nudity is definitely more entertaining at least.

May 05, 2010 08:37 AM
rating: 0
 
smitty

I'm very glad to see Colin spelling out the continuum of force standards here. It's one of the few places I have found that actually tried to bring some good facts to bear on this issue.

That said, here's some stuff from a study after the Seattle PD used the taser for a year:

"Both officers and subjects reported low rates of injury during Taser incidents as compared to other use of force situations.

In 68% of the incidents, subjects sustained only puncture abrasions from the darts, or no injury.

Some injuries occurred prior to deployment, and some injuries occurred as subjects fell to the ground after being hit with Taser darts. No subject injuries were major, and no injuries were directly attributable to the Taser.

The low injury rate associated with the Taser is one of its biggest selling points for officers. Taser officers frequently reported to trainers how much they appreciated having a tool at their disposal that can resolve incidents "without anyone getting hurt."

The Taser was found to be an effective "less than lethal" weapon that can be used to temporarily disable or stop suspects/attackers."
[/quote][/quote]

Police officers are trained pretty thoroughly on the continuum of force stuff. The questions here are: is taser use considered a compliance technique?; was this simply active resistance?; should tasers be used as a compliance technique?; how safe is a taser really?

One interesting thing I've read while researching this issue is many police departments require their officers to be "tased" as part of the training.

I think you can make a case that using the taser was safer for everyone as opposed to tackling and pig-piling the kid. Both officers and criminals get hurt all the time in those situations.

In this case the taser did its job exactly as it was supposed to. The question is, should this be normal procedure to stop fools when they're running on a field of play?

When researching this, I found it difficult to get a balanced view on these devices. They are called torture devices and are said to be the cause of hundreds and hundreds of deaths. They are also said to be great ways to subdue suspects and they greatly reduce the chances of anyone getting hurt.

I don't think there's a simple answer to this. We need more balanced reporting on this issue. I'm not really hopeful of that happening though.

May 05, 2010 08:54 AM
rating: 6
 
CRP13

We live in a world where people are taught that they do not have to accept the consequences of their actions. Cops have tazers. There are cops at a ballpark. Kid broke the rules. The possibility of being tazed is always there if you make a poor decision and the cops get involved, right or wrong as that may be.

Cause and Effect: Kid is stupid - Kid gets tazed.

In my opinion, whether or not the tazer should have been used is a moot point. The possibility was there, and the kid chose to create a public disturbance anyway. The fault lies with him.

May 05, 2010 10:18 AM
rating: 4
 
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