Earlier this week a Philadelphia police officer used his electrical shock weapon (commonly known as a taser because it is most often associated with the leading manufacturer of the weapon: Taser International, Inc.) to subdue a seventeen year-old fan who ran onto the field and repeatedly eluded capture by security personnel. The use of the taser has spurred a national debate about where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable uses of force when subduing a fan trespassing on the field during a sporting event. A excellent article on the debate can be found at:http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5165782. Critics of the use of the taser cite the fact that in rare instances a taser can cause cardiac arrest in its target. This risk has forced Taser International, Inc. to no longer classify the weapon as non-lethal.

I felt the use of the taser was justified and acceptable. For me, it boils down to two simple concepts: (a) where to allocate the risk; and (b) choice.

Allocation of the Risk. Two legitimate risk exists: (a) the risk of injury or death to the fan; and (b) the risk of injury or death to a player, member of the security team, or spectator. Who then should be more at risk? The fan? Or the players, security personnel, and the spectators? I think it has to be the fan. Yes, the critics will point out that in most cases the fan on the field is immature or drunk or both — he is void of bad intentions, so where is the risk? Why inject a risk into the situation by using a taser? But not every incident is peaceful and in the past real people have gotten seriously hurt. Those who disagree with me have yet to learn from Monica Seles’s stabbing (WARNING! THIS IS GRAPHIC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl-2uVhNLJI), the attack on Coach Gamboa of the Kansas City Royals in Chicago in 2002, or the attack on Bill Spiers in 1999 by a fan inMilwaukee. Why should the players, security personnel, and spectators be put at risk for acts of violence, even if the risk is minuscule, before the fan is put at risk for serious injury? Perhaps it would be better understood if viewed in the inverse. Why should the fan be put at risk for rare the rare serious injury or death resulting from tasing before the players, security personnel, and spectators are put at risk for an act of violence? Easy, because…

Choice. The fan chose to run onto the field and is therefore responsible for the consequences and the greater allocation of risk against him. There is NO legitimate reason for the fan to be on the field and the fan must know that he will somehow be apprehended. So the fan should expect that and be prepared for the authorities use of any method of apprehension that is permitted by law. This seems fair because there is no justification for an increased risk to the people who had this unruly fan thrust upon them by none other than the fan himself. The players, security personnel, and spectators have no choice in the matter — the fan being on the field is the responsibility of only one person: the fan. Thus, in a situation, like here, where the fan continues to be uncooperative and evade apprehension, the authorities should be permitted to exercise force within the permissible limits of the law.

It must be noted, however, that the Philadelphia Phillies disagree. They have revised their policy to all but eliminate force beyond a simple a tackling of the fan to the ground except in the most extreme of circumstances [assuming the malicious fan even gives the authorities time to react appropriately] (http://cbs3.com/local/philadelphia.phillies.taser.2.1673184.html). Fans who trespass onto the field will be apprehended by Phillies’s security personnel and THEN handed over to the Philadelphia police.