Thursday, July 10, 2014
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'Taser' me out to the ballpark?

The police officer's Tasering of a young fan who ran onto the field in the eighth inning of the Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals game certainly appears to have been an over-reaction.

'Taser' me out to the ballpark?

A Philadelphia police officer - with taser in hand - chases a fan who ran on the field during the 8th inning on Monday night. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )
A Philadelphia police officer - with taser in hand - chases a fan who ran on the field during the 8th inning on Monday night. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )

Was that modern, zero-tolerance policing on display Monday night in the outfield at Citizens Bank Park -- or just another use of excessive force by a Philadelphia cop?

The police officer's Tasering of a young fan who ran onto the field in the eighth inning of the Phillies-St. Louis Cardinals game certainly appears to have been an over-reaction.

Online videos of the episode are sure to go viral, and the expression "downed-by-Taser" could well be destined for the lexicon of unruly Philly sports fans. But unlike the fan who vomited on a child the other week, the outfield kid appears to deserve some sympathy.

Knuckleheaded fans shouldn't be running on the field, but that doesn't mean police should use a Taser to stop them when -- as evident Monday -- the only imminent harm was a teen making a complete fool of himself.

For one thing, the high-voltage stun devices are controversial due to the deaths of some Tasered suspects. Tasers should be reserved for situations where someone is threatening harm to a police officer or bystander.

On Monday, though, grounds crews clearly had surrounded the fan, Steve Consalvi, a 17-year-old college-bound high school kid. Consalvi had no weapon in his hands -- only a rally towel that he waved while dashing back and forth in center field.

From the video of the event, it looks like the cop who did the John Wayne routine on Consalvi just as easily could have let the grounds crew help corral the teenager in a matter of seconds.

Maybe cops assigned to police the stadium should be forewarned that they might get grass stains on their uniforms by having to tackle a fan like Consalvi. If that doesn't suit them, there are desk assignments.

The Phillies have their share of problems with unruly fans, but they need to calibrate the right response for each possible scenario. Now they need to reassure the vast majority of well-behaving fans that Tasering will not become the preferred form of crowd control at the ballpark.

Oddly enough, the Taser incident stands in contrast to the Phillies' failure so far to come to grips with routine over-boozing and the resulting rude and abusive behavior by fans who manage to stay in their seats, most of the time. That's certainly a bigger problem and of greater concern for the families who (for now) are willing to fork over big bucks to take their kids out to the ball game.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey needs to narrow the criteria for using Tasers -- at least, eliminating their use on teenagers prancing around the Phillies' outfield.

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