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Phillies fan tasered: Why police are using Tasers more often

The wily 17-year-old Phillies fan tasered in front of 45,000 at a baseball game Monday night brings concerns about lethality and police abuse of force to the forefront of discussion.

By Staff writer / May 4, 2010

Phillies fan tasered: The 17 year-old Philadelphia fan ran on the field during Monday night's Phillies-Cardinals game and was apprehended when a police officer fired a Taser at him.

Matt Slocum/AP



Did the 17-year-old field-runner who got tasered by a Philadelphia police officer at the Phillies-Cardinals game at Citizens Bank Park Monday night have it coming? Or did the police officer struggling to keep pace go too far by firing 50,000 volts at the towel-waving kid in order to crumple him in front of nearly 45,000 fans?

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That's the conversation of the day as video of the incident goes viral on the Web and Americans get another chance to weigh the pros and cons of a device that has become a favorite alternative for police officers confronting weaponless lawbreakers.

The number of Tasers in the hands of police have grown to 375,000 worldwide, and the blowback – from "Don't tase me, bro!" to a reported 300 deaths – has been significant.

The Philadelphia Police Department has said that the officer acted in accord with department guidelines, which allow officers to fire their Tasers to subdue fleeing suspects. But judging from the alternating boos and cheers from the crowd, it's far from clear where the public's sentiments lie.

To some, the tasering incident in Philadelphia is indicative of a perceived escalation of threat against police – and how the media has perhaps laid the groundwork for acceptance of Tasers by overhyping that fear.

"[The Phillies fan tasering incident] feels in some ways like a distorted version of what happened in the '60s when people were out of control over fear of war protesters, but now there's fear of almost anyone, like we're at war with ourselves in this country," says Elayne Rapping, a pop-culture expert at the SUNY's University at Buffalo. "It's a slippery slope when we're going to start letting people use weapons of ever more intense destructiveness for small things."

Trespassing on the field is taken seriously by both MLB and law enforcement. But the 17-year-old wearing a red Phillies National League Champions shirt obviously offered no direct threat to players, many of whom reacted by chuckling into their gloves at the wild scene that unfolded.

The Phillies reported it was the first tasering incident for the team, and it's certainly the first one at a professional sports game to be so widely distributed. The scene was not televised as it happened during a commercial break, but fans got a front row seat to an incident that broke into a viral sprint on YouTube.

Wired 96.5-FM's Chio, who hosts the "Good Day" show, reacted with one common refrain that seems to indicate a more sanguine cultural view of the Taser. "I think it's great," Chio said on the air. "You're not supposed to do that … you're looking for attention. Maybe if they know that, 'Oh, snap, I'm gonna get tasered instead of jumped on …,' maybe this might not happen again."