Philadelphia Police Chief Backs Officer Who Tasered Fan Who Ran Onto Field

May 5, 2010 - 4:39 AM
The department is now reviewing whether its officers should be on the field wrangling runaway fans who aren't threatening anyone.
Tasered fan

A law enforcement officer chases and tasers a fan who ran onto the field before the eighth inning of a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, May 3, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia (AP) - City police are considering whether officers should get involved when unruly but nonthreatening fans sprint onto the field during sporting events, a review begun after a teenager was subdued with a Taser at a Phillies game.
 
A police officer used his stun gun Monday night on 17-year-old Steve Consalvi, who jumped onto the field and ran around in circles in the outfield.
 
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey examined video of the arrest and felt the officer acted within department guidelines, which allow officers to use Tasers to arrest fleeing suspects, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore. The department's internal affairs unit is investigating, Vanore said.
 
The department is now reviewing whether its officers should be on the field wrangling runaway fans who aren't threatening anyone, Vanore said.
 
"Should we be on the field at all? I think that's what's being looked at," Vanore said. "I'm not sure we should be chasing people around the field."
 
Another fan ran onto the field at Citizens Bank Park during Tuesday night's Phillies game and gave himself up without incident in center field. The 34-year-old man was booed by the sellout crowd and charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct and narcotics possession.
 
Consalvi, a high school senior from Boyertown, leapt onto the field at the top of the eighth inning during Monday night's game against St. Louis. He ran around in the outfield, waving a white towel, and dodged two security officers.
 
The police officer chased him for about 30 seconds before the stun gun probe hit the teenager, who stumbled forward, slid face-first on the grass and stayed down for about 30 seconds before standing up and walking off the field.
Tasered fan

Tasered Phillies fan lies on the ground. (AP Photo)

"From the preliminary look at it, it appears that the officer was within the policy," said Vanore, adding that he did not know what may have transpired before the video started. "He was attempting to make an arrest and the male was attempting to flee."
 
Police said the teen is charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
 
Consalvi's mother, Amy Ziegler, apologized for his actions and said he regrets running onto the field.
 
"It was stupid. It was just absolutely stupid," she told WTXF-TV.
 
His father, Wayne Consalvi, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his son called him from the ballpark to tell him about the stunt. Wayne Consalvi said he told him not to do it.
 
The team said the police department was discussing with the Phillies whether using the stun gun was appropriate.
 
Vanore said it was the first time he knew of that a Philadelphia officer had used a Taser on a fan on the field. There have been instances in other cities of police using stun guns on unruly fans in the stands, including last year at an A's game in Oakland, Calif.
 
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called the incident "a big mistake."
 
"There's no need to use Tasers on fans who run on the field," the former Philadelphia mayor told WCAU-TV. "We should just have enough personnel out there to surround them, take them off the field and put them in jail."
 
Players didn't think the officer's action was excessive.
 
"If you're on the streets running away from a cop, doesn't that cop have a right to Tase you because your fleeing from a cop? So what's the difference," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said.
 
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa agreed the use of a Taser was appropriate.
 
"If somebody comes up there and does some damage, they're going to be second-guessing not doing anything," La Russa said. "I just think it's acceptable, because it's a good deterrent."
 
Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said security issues are dealt with at the team level.
 
"MLB is reserving comment until the Philadelphia Police Department has completed their investigation and discussions with the Phillies," he said in a statement.
 
The fan on the field Tuesday night hopped over a fence in the ninth inning and ran along the warning track in center field waving his arms. He was soon captured without a Taser being used.
 
An expert on police accountability said he couldn't comment specifically on the Philadelphia case, but said the general rule is that officers should only use Tasers on people who are posing a threat of "imminent harm."
 
Merrick Bobb, executive director of a Los Angeles-based nonprofit police oversight group called the Police Assessment Resource Center, said mild resistance usually doesn't justify the use of a Taser.
 
"Usually the resistance has to threaten some harm to the officer in order to justify the use of a Taser," Bobb said.
 
Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia, said she didn't understand why the officer had to use a Taser.
 
"How long can he really run around out there?" Roper said of the fan. "In this situation, he's not dangerous, he's not getting away."