We are living in a world where the verb "tase" has been added to the lexicon. It was made famous by a University of Florida student who was "tased" at a presidential election rally for then-U.S. Senator John Kerry.
On Sept. 17, 2007, Kerry visited the university for a rally. Initially allowed to ask questions after the close of the question period, Andrew Meyer, a 21-year-old fourth-year undergraduate mass communication student, was subsequently removed from the forum by university police. During the struggle to arrest Meyer, one of the officers stunned him with a Taser.
Several videos of the episode were then posted on the Internet. The most viewed version of the video, shot by Kyle Mitchell of The Gainesville Sun, has more than 4.7 million views on YouTube as of this writing. The New Oxford American Dictionary went on to list "tase/taze" as one of the words of the year for 2007, popularized by the widespread use of Meyer's phrase "Don't tase me, bro!"
The less-than-lethal (in most cases) Taser made headlines again in May - this time at a recent Philadelphia Phillies game - when a group of five security officers and one police officer were unable to catch 17-year-old Steven Consalvi, who hopped a fence and ran into the outfield during play. He ran around and avoided his pursuers until the police officer resorted to the stun gun, and downed the trespasser in front of 40,000 fans. It was the first and only time a Taser has been used to subdue a trespassing fan.
According to reports, Philadelphia police are investigating whether the officer used excessive force, and if the equipment was used properly. A CBS report said the parents of the 17-year-old commented that police used too much force. "He definitely shouldn't run on the field. Fine him, whatever he gets for that," said Wayne Consalvi, Steven Consalvi's father. "But tasering him? Definitely uncalled for."
Before you jump to the officer's defense, consider that a fan ran onto the very same field at Citizens Bank Park during a Phillies game the next night, and security did not use a Taser to apprehend the man. He gave himself up without incident. The man hopped over the fence in left field and ran along the warning track waving his arms.
So, is resorting to the Taser in this situation justified? I doubt it. Even if the slow and overweight officer and game day security squad was unable to catch the boy, he did not seem to be posing an immediate danger to the players on the field - he was merely running around like an idiot, because, as he reportedly told his father over the phone before the game, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"
I am all for the use of non-lethal force when the situation calls for it. Baseball fans remember all-too-well a recent incident at a Chicago White Sox game where the Taser would have been absolutely appropriate. In September of 2002, 34-year-old idiot William Ligue Jr., and his 15-year-old son thought it would be a great idea to hop the fence and attack Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa. One second, Gamboa was standing near first base, the next second he was on his back being pummeled with punches by the two morons. Eventually, they were subdued by police and arrested, although three counts of aggravated battery and one count of mob action later, both Ligues somehow got off with just 30 months of probation and no jail time.
It was by no means the first or last incident of fans attacking players, coaches or umpires on the field. Seven months after the Ligues charged the field, umpire Laz Diaz was assaulted by a fan in nearly the same spot that Gamboa was beaten months before.
On Sept. 28, 1995, Cubs reliever Randy Myers was charged by a 27-year-old bond trader who ran out of the stands at Wrigley Field. Myers saw the man coming, dropped his glove and knocked him down with his forearm. On Sept. 24, 1999, a 23-year-old fan attacked Houston right fielder Bill Spiers in Milwaukee. Spiers ended up with a welt under his left eye, a bloody nose and whiplash.
And of course, most of us remember the infamous 1993 stabbing of tennis star Monica Seles by a deranged fan.
These are situations where the Taser is appropriate. In the Phillies' management's defense, the team released the following statement two days after the tasing incident: "In ordinary circumstances involving field intrusion, the Phillies game day security personnel will make the apprehension of the field jumper and turn him over to the Philadelphia Police on the field for handcuffing and subsequent charging. Police officers will be called upon only if more force is necessary."
The lesson? If the officer was using decent judgment, it never would have been an issue in the first place.
Editor's Note: Steve Lasky's regular column will return in the next issue of STE.
For more from managing editor Paul Rothman, visit his blog, "The STE Executive Suite" at www.SecurityInfoWatch.com/blogs.