I live in Oregon, and I work late and I get up late, and so I was late coming to the Taser party this morning. Throw in my Tuesday chat and trying to do some relatively quick blogging, and I've just now seen the video.
Which made me want to write about a thousand words.
Which made me wonder if I might find a shortcut.
Which made me hope that Craig Calcaterra had already written something, because Craig and I tend to see the world through the same spectacles.
He didn't let me down. After acknowledging that of course fans shouldn't run around on the field, and of course there's a danger to the players and the umpires when it happens, Craig says almost exactly what I was thinking ...
I do not agree that the guy at the Phillies game should have been subdued with a Taser. It was too much force, in my view, and was disproportionate to the threat presented.
And make no mistake: a Taser is designed to be use to combat threats, not merely to help subdue drunks or trespassers. Indeed, the very company who makes the Taser calls it a product that "protects life." One that is designed to "incapacitate dangerous, combative, or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement/correctional officers, innocent citizens, or themselves."
Can anyone point to a moment where the kid threatened or even came near anyone on the field? Any point where he appeared to be "dangerous," or "combative?" Any point where he appeared to "pose a risk to law enforcement officers?"
I know that people worry about the safety of players. I do too. I also worry, however, about what happens when the government uses its most serious power: the power to exert force over citizens. There are over 2000 baseball games a year. In any given year there are very, very few incidents of fans running on the field. Of those, incidents in which the fans get anywhere near a player before being subdued are even rarer. If more attention were paid to in-stadium security, the incidents would be even rarer than that.
Now think about what we risk when we tell police officers that it's perfectly acceptable to use force without heed to the actual threat -- as opposed to potential threat -- posed by the suspect. Because make no mistake, that's what anyone who uses the "but we have no idea what could have happened" argument to support the police officer is really saying. Personally I find that unsettling.
Actually, I find it worse than unsettling. I find this disturbing and revolting. The Tasering, yes. But even more, the defense of the Tasering.
What happens next time? Will fans be cheering? I don't have a great imagination, but it's easy for me to imagine the chants ... Tase-him! Tase-him!
Punish idiots who run on the field. Punish them extra if they're drunk. If they've got a knife and have murderous intent, throw them in a dungeon and forget about them for a while.
But a baseball field is a stage for athletes. It's not meant to showcase the sharpshooting talents of a cop who's tired of chasing a foolish, but probably harmless, teenager. When we applaud that, we take one step closer to barbarism.