The Taserification of America
by Will Bunch
Unless you've been living in a Waziristan cave for the last 24 years, you've heard about the unfortunate misdemeanor-breaking dude who got Tasered at a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park last night. My computer screen here in Center City went all a-Twitter about it even before all the electrons had even stopped flowing through 17-year-old suburban high school senior Steve Consalvi.
My gut instinct when I first learned of it was the same as I feel about it a day later: That while it wasn't exactly a Rodney King affair, clearly the officer had used excessive force. I've been watching baseball games for more than 40 years, and the drills is always the same. The fan isn't trying to do harm, just get attention; it used to be that the TV cameras never even showed a field-jumper for exactly that reason, back before ESPN needed an endless stream of fodder for its "Top 10 Plays."
People forget that the whole justification for police to get Tasers in the first place was to subdue potentially violent suspects in cases in the past in which they might have been tempted to use lethal force. But the notion that the cops would have pulled a gun and shot 17-year-old field jumper Steve Consalvi is absurd, which means the rationale for tasing him is...what? There's something oddly funny about zapping a fellow human for some reason, but Tasers are no joke to the loved ones of the estimated 50 people who died because of their use.
Consalvi didn't have the risk factors of most of those killed or injured -- he is young, health, and wasn't drunk or on drugs. But he still -- while committing a misdemeanor, let's remember -- was subjected to the brief, intense pain of 50,000 volts of electricty. There was a simpler, quainter time when causing pain to another person was called...violence.
I guess that quaint time was America before 9/11 -- after which for some reason we lost all sense of proportionality on how to respond to various levels of wrongdoing.
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