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Saturday, May 08, 2010

EDITORIAL: Couldn’t They Just Tag Him?

May 8, 2010

The question is not whether Steve Consalvi should have jumped onto the field during a major-league baseball game in Philadelphia on Monday, waving a towel and running in circles like a toddler trying to avoid bath time. He shouldn’t have. Nor is it whether he should have been subdued and arrested. That seems obvious.

No, the question is how. Subdued, yes. Tackled, maybe. Tasered, no.

The electric stun gun that instantly dropped Mr. Consalvi in the eighth inning was fired by a police officer who clearly had no desire to dance around the outfield with a 17-year-old. The Philadelphia police chief said he had acted properly to stop a fleeing suspect, which, we suppose, technically, Mr. Consalvi was.

Mr. Consalvi was also outnumbered, had no way to escape and posed no evident threat, except to the flow of a good ballgame and maybe to the pride of officers who were older, heavier and slower than he.

Taser defenders argue that stadium romps are no joke; athletes sometimes need protecting from deranged and violent fans. Other ballplayers have been harassed and tackled. The tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed.

Having a powerful weapon doesn’t mean you fire it with abandon. One fear about Tasers, which cause jolts of extreme pain and involuntary muscle contractions, but seldom kill, is that officers use them too readily. They should resort to Tasers if they are in danger and out of other options, not because they’re frustrated.

All cities have dumb fans. Philadelphia seems to have more than its share. The best course there, as anywhere, is smarter, more attentive security in the stands. Maybe it’s also higher Plexiglas, stiffer trespassing fines, less beer. Force must always be the last resort. Tasering a showboating kid is just plain excessive.

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