Is That a Taser In Your Hand?

A Philadelphia police officer used a Taser to take down a 17-year-old boy who ran onto the field during a Phillies game. The boy ran around the outfield for a few seconds before being brought down by the Taser’s electrified probes.

A December 2009 ruling by the liberal-leaning Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set judicial standards for police and their use of Tasers. “The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public,” said Judge Kim Wardlaw in the ruling.

So, what’s your opinion? Was the officer’s Taser use justified in this case? Was there a threat to the officer or anyone else?  Were restraint options other than Taser use available to security and police? Keep in mind that it is illegal to trespass on the ball field.

By the way, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said, “The officer acted appropriately, and I support him 100 percent.”

– It seems that this incident was not much of a deterrence. The next day a second fan made his way onto the field, but was captured without the use of a Taser. Security managed to grab this one the old fashioned way, with their hands.

* 334 people died in the United States from 2001 to August 2008 after being hit by Tasers.

15 replies
  1. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    I’m having a difficult time with this one. Yeah, he did break the law. So, technically he did open himself up to whatever consequences presented themselves. And he made have had a gun or other weapon with him. The only problem is he never threatened any of the people chasing him on the field. Unless you count the threat of making them look like idiots because not one of them could catch him.
    And I’m just as tired as everyone else is of all the people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. And I’m sure this kid thought it would be funny to run on the field and watch himself on the 11 o’clock news and brag to all his friends about it. The tasering actually gave him 30 minutes of fame so he got a bonus out of it. And I’m sure his parents’ phone has been ringing off the hook with personal injury lawyers calling. So he may even end up with some money out of the deal.
    I know it takes away from the game and is annoying, but I don’t think tasering is really the answer. And of course, it didn’t deter someone from repeating it the following night. At the time, I’m sure the officer saw it as the best course of action. It’s good that the commissioner backed him on it, but I’d be willing to bet it won’t happen again.
    I can’t remember what I was watching one time, but a fan came onto the field and the network broadcasting it, refused to show him. That’s probably step one in deterring this type of action. Of course, that has to be voluntary on the part of the networks. Step two would be to stack a hefty fine on it. If someone knows they will have to pay a nice chunk of change after their little prank, it may make them think twice, especially (as someone above mentioned) they can’t really escape. Eventually, they will get caught and their actions are on tape so they can’t deny it.
    I’m all for safety first, etc, (and with several friends & family members in law enforcement, I understand the dangers) but I’d hate to think that we live in a society where we could get tasered (or worse) if we take one step out of line. Trespassing (such as in this case) is a far cry from threatening harm to another person. Should they both really be treated the same way? And I do think the officer did what he felt was necessary. It just opens up some questions about how far are we willing to go in the name of ‘safety’?
    Well, as you can see, I’m torn. Sorry, I got a little long-winded.

  2. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Me, I guess I’m getting old. I am tired of these kids (and adults) who think they are entitled. Worse, the parents who teach them that they are.

    I agree that it could have been an endangerment to all the other people in the stadium. Maybe I’m too security concious but I’d rather be safe.

    I also agree that this kid is now getting too much attention from the media.

    Taser or not? Well, he did break the law so opted to take that risk.

  3. Carla
    Carla says:

    Just as a follow-up, the Tuesday night moron walked out of jail last night and was greeted by a sea of reporters. He smiled for the cameras and said, “Oh wow.” Fifteen minutes, achieved.

    As far as the use of excessive force goes, what if either of these clowns had had a weapon on him? Fans go through metal detectors, some get wanded, some men get patted down, but I’ve gone in twice where they checked my tote bag but not my purse because it was on my shoulder and they didn’t notice it. (I voluntarily opened it and they thanked me.) 45K people go through those gates when there’s a sellout. You can’t catch everything. Worse yet, it’s easy enough to stand at the gates on the inside and grab something someone handed you from outside the ballpark. What if either of these guys got on the field and went after a player with a weapon? We buried Harry the K last year, and Robin Roberts died today. I really don’t want to go to any more funerals.

    Steven, I love that new slogan! You should suggest it to Phillies management! 🙂 Sure better than “Goosebumps” in ’07.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    We had some great comments come in about this topic, but I’m unable to allow them on the site because they came in registered as “anonymous.” Last week someone attempted to hack into the site, therefore I’m forced to return to the old way of doing things—requiring everyone to register with a valid email address and user name. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  5. Kelly S.
    Kelly S. says:

    This is a hard call. I think tasers should only be used when (to use an overused phrase) there is clear and present danger, for example if the boy had had some kind of weapon in his hand. But what looks innocent to someone like me looking at this on tv, or on-line may have looked very different to the officials on the field at the time. So thats a judgment call on the part of the LEOs that I’m hesitant to second guess.

    I do find the media at fault though. This kid-and others who do this should not get ANY media attention. I don’t know what the penalty for this is, but I would think absolutely no interviews or other media attention. How about a LOT of community service, along with cleaning the mens rooms at the stadium for the rest of the season?

  6. Steven T.
    Steven T. says:

    Overkill. The boy wasn’t a threat, just an idiot. He also wasn’t really ever going to get away was he? I mean, even if he ran all the way back to his seat, he’d just get arrested there. Unless Philly’s field has some magic trap door or something. It’s a stadium. No place to go, ultimately.

    on the other hand, the Phillies can now have a new slogan: “Come on down to the Stadium – It’s Electrifying!”

  7. Dave Swords
    Dave Swords says:

    Folks sometimes get upset at the use of Tasers, pepper spray, firearms, or other uses of force employed by the police. It always brings to my mind the question, “What else would you have the police do?” Tasers and pepper spray are much better ways of subduing lawbreakers than how it was done 20 years ago, i.e. a physical fight, in which both suspect and officer were often hurt.

    Elena, as to point 1, I assume you are making that point from what Lee mentions in his blog, but that would, at this point, effect only areas within that jurisdiction, so that tasering was not necessarily “illegal.”

    As to point #2, while these incidents are tragic beyond comprehension, is it helpful to blame the cartoons, or should we wonder how these children got hold of the parent’s weapon?

    Point #3 Remember, most experts consider the taser a form of non-lethal force with no permanent ill effects. The deaths involving tasering that I am aware of usually were the cause of other medical problems, i.e. heart condition aggravated by cocaine use and exertion caused by physical violence from fighting with the police, etc.

  8. Elena
    Elena says:

    There are three points about this that really bother me:
    1) The kid was not a threat to anyone, therefore it was not legal to taser him. The only danger the officer was in was of being out of shape and not able to run.
    2) I am aware of four episodes of youngsters using their parent’s gun to shoot a little friend based on the idea that in the cartoons the character gets right up after being shot. Only these never got up again. This just upped the potential for more such shootings.
    3) The only violence involved came from a police officer.

  9. Dave Freas
    Dave Freas says:

    In my younger days, I would have said of the kid’s actions, “No harm, no foul.” The older I get, the less tolerance I have for such idiocy.

    The moment that kid stepped onto that field, he broke the law and, as far as I’m concerned, deserved whatever happened to him. I’m sure the officer who tasered him (or another officer) ordered him to stop. When he didn’t, he opened himself up to whatever actions the police deemed necessary to end his behavior. The officer is not at fault for that kid getting tasered, he brought it on himself!

    While I don’t think the police should be allowed to run amok, I do believe they should be allowed to employ whatever force is necessary to maintain law and order without their every action being questioned by people who have never been in their shoes.

    I agree with Carla that the kid probably was after his 15 minutes of fame and that his actions ruined what was supposed to be a pleasant evening at the ballpark for everyone. I disagree with her as to what should be done to prevent similar episodes. Nonsense like that shouldn’t even get a passing mention in the news. If it was up to me, the media would be prohibited from airing them. And forget rubber bullets and public floggings. Anyone who commits a stunt like that should be slapped with a back breaking fine and locked in an isolation cell for a minimum of 24 hours to reflect on the stupidity of his actions.

  10. Mary
    Mary says:

    Yesterday, I came home from school, frustrated by my classmates, and seeing this article made my day. The kid totally had it coming to him. What else was the officer going to do? Chase after him and be humiliated in front of a stadium?

    Carla, I hadn’t heard that he was interviewed by Katie Couric. That is definitely positive reinforcement that this will happen again. And hopefully the parents of the kids were able to predict what was going to happen by seeing the officer pointing the taser, and were able to redirect their children’s eyes to something else.

  11. SZ
    SZ says:

    It did not seem necessary, they had enough guys after him. I agree with Carla. The media makes “crime” become entertainment, and it will happen again. The taser shooting did not effect the boy that much, so the children watching will not fear the tasers as a deterrence to crime.

  12. Carla
    Carla says:

    I have lots of opinions about these idiots in the outfield. (I’m from Philly.) As far as the use of Tasers go, I wish it had been a deterrent, but obviously it wasn’t enough of one. Maybe that has something to do with Katie Couric interviewing the Monday night idiot and his family. The Tuesday night idiot wanted his 15 minutes too.

    What bothers me is that there were families in the stands on Monday night (it was the dollar dog night promotion), and little kids didn’t understand why the PPD officer “shot” at the idiot on the field. For all the kids knew, the cop used a real gun, until said idiot got up and was walked off the field. Isn’t that a great memory for those kids to be taking home from the ball game. Like there isn’t enough shooting in Philadelphia?

    I’ll be watching the game again tonight. Unless they put up nets and glass walls around the lower level (uber-expensive) seats, it’s going to happen again because even Tasing isn’t enough of a deterrent. Not if it means getting coverage on the Nightly News and hours of analysis on sports talk radio. Maybe next time, rubber bullets and public flogging instead of instant celebrity?

  13. Les Edgerton
    Les Edgerton says:

    They just need a Texas Ranger. There’s that old story, supposed to be true, where a town in West Texas was in the throes of a full-fledged riot and the mayor telegraphed for help from the Texas Rangers. Pretty soon, a Texas Ranger showed up. “Only one of you?” the mayor asked. “There’s only one riot, isn’t there?” was his reply. The report is he quelled it easily…

  14. Pat Brown
    Pat Brown says:

    Historically the LAPD has always had one of the lowest staffing ratios in the US. Los Angeles has one officer for every 426 residents. New York City boasts one NYPD officer for every 228 residents. To bring the LAPD up to the standards of the NYPD something like 17,000 new officers would have to be hired.

    And as Lee pointed out, this does not take into account the millions of visitors every year. And yet every time the question of more money for police services comes up it is soundly voted down. The citizens of L.A. demand more service but refuse to pay more for it. That’s the way of it. Citizens, spurred on by civic leaders and the media, love to trash the police, but few are willing to address the underlying issues of understaffing. I’m sure it isn’t helped by today’s demand for a lot more paperwork from police officers.

  15. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    Everybody wants the police on their street all the time, but no one wants to pay for it.
    Another issue I’ve noticed is that people don’t bother to report suspicious people or activity to the police & then wonder why the police don’t know about it. Our cars were broken into a few months ago. Not much was stolen (whatever pocket change was in there – we don’t keep anything in our cars), but we reported it to the police. The officer that responded was a little surprised that we reported it with basically nothing taken. As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones hit that night. Several of our neighbors weren’t as fortunate as us.

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