Walking a fine line

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the video of an allegedly drunk, unruly, and uncooperative Pirates (and USA) fan being escorted from Saturday’s Pirates game and then being tased and beaten with a billy club when he refused to follow police orders.

The video, taken by a Pirates fan and blogger, is startling:

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There is debate of course today as to whether excessive force was used in bringing the fan down, as the officer that struck him reported the fan took a fighting stance and therefore the officer feared for his safety.

1. I don’t see the fighting stance in question. It appears to me that Rende tased then immediately hit. However, the crowd is unruly and the tasing seems to have no effect on the man.

2. This, Internet, is why you DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD when it is an armed police officer doing the telling. We’ve been over this so many times. If you choose to disobey an order by a cop, you might as well hold up a sign that says “Tase me, bro.”

3. My first thought at seeing the video was that Detective Rende went a bit overboard, but please keep in mind that I am fully aware that until I am a police officer and I am faced with a threat to my safety in an unstable environment, I cannot know what motivates a police officer to exert the force he or she chooses to exert. Your safety and the safety of those you’re protecting must come first and I’m sure sometimes that sense of self-preservation kicks into overdrive. Of course, if you have a heightened sense of self-preservation, probably you shouldn’t choose law enforcement as a profession.

Gosh. If ever I’ve written a sentence that could be followed with “I’m just sayin’,” that was the one.

4. The fans chanting “USA!” should be ashamed.

5. Francis “Frank” Rende is a name you should know, Pittsburgh, if he is indeed the same Frank Rende, and the fact that I can’t find anyone else making this connection is making me wonder if I’m wrong about this and if I am, please let me know it’s not the SAME Frank “Francis” Rende.

He is the police detective whose sister lived with Dennis Regan, the former city operations head who was once nominated by Lukey to head the public safety department. Regan resigned when it came to light that he tried to interfere with punishment for Rende and tried to get Rende promoted despite … wait for it … wait for it … a history of misconduct.

Ah, there’s the pointy teeth that are going to bite the city in the ass.

We don’t just have an officer who feared for his safety using a taser and billy club on a drunk man. What we have is an officer who was told in 2000, ELEVEN YEARS AGO, that any further misconduct would be cause for termination after it was revealed he returned to a victim of domestic abuse’s house to have sex with her after responding to a call at her home, who stayed on the force because of family connections, who called off 37 times in four years to work side jobs above and beyond his almost six-figure detective job, who has a “complaint history at the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations [that] contains a dozen accusations of conduct unbecoming an officer, verbal abuse and excessive force,” tasing and beating a drunk fan.

Again, Rende could truly have feared for his safety and could have justifiably used force via taser and billy club in this instance, but because of his history, there’s a whole new layer of questions and doubts.

Take a note. By allowing a police officer with a history of misconduct and excessive force to remain on the job, the City of Pittsburgh is now faced with defending Rende, who has once again managed to notch a pockmark on the face of the Pittsburgh Police force’s integrity.

Commence the biting of the ass.

Finally, why can’t more police officers be like Chuck Norris? “You’re under arrest. Hands behind your head.” “No.” [Roundhouse kick to the chin].

That’s not excessive. That’s efficient.

I’m just sayin’.


  1. TripleC
    April 11, 2011 2:22 pm

    @ Cnik – classic. I forgot how funny that was!

  2. Naten53
    April 11, 2011 2:46 pm

    how come no one is saying that the PNC Park employee escalated the incident by jumping in and blocking the high five when the man was leaving and then acting like a tough guy after getting shoved. If the high five was that big of a deal then they should have let it happen and escort that person out afterwards instead of jumping in and escalating a conflict.

  3. Dan (Not Onorato)
    April 11, 2011 2:52 pm

    @52 Nate

    Because its almost to the effect of rewarding him. What is the definition of a high five? A congrats for doing something well, right? They should have thrown him out too.

    You want to high five him? Guilty by association. Youre gone too.

  4. kevin
    April 11, 2011 2:54 pm

    Look, the Stadium Security and Police came to his seat for a reason. They didn’t just pick him out. The fact that his behavior could have, and in some ways did incite the crowd, that alone is a threat to the cops. I’m tired of drunks affecting my enjoyment at events I buy tickets to as well. Act civilized and there is no problem, don;t make excuses for assholes! I’d want to cuff him and get him out of there pronto, he didn’t cooperate and that situation was just one drunk fan from exploding.Regardless of the history of the cop(s) invloved or Pittsburgh police, I don’t see they did anything not called for. Just cooperate and it’s over, why is that so difficult to get?

  5. Bill H
    April 11, 2011 3:09 pm

    I had already posted the following. If it is the same guy, that’s an interesting point about his past, but as far as I can tell we’re debating his actions Saturday, unrelated to past allegations. If those allegations are true, he’s a real piece of trash – albeit one who acted well maintained the safety not just himself, but of the crowd around him.

    I wholeheartedly supports the PGH Police.
    Initially I thought the force seemed excessive.
    But examining the PNC Park video in a thoughtful manner, I realized a few things:
    1. The moment the guy struck someone, the police had to act to maintain safety in a highly public area. You never know what a large drunk man is capable of.
    2. Engaging this man, possibly with children around, would be a huge public danger. A Taser is regarded as one of the safest and least violent ways to immediately subdue someone, so I feel the use was justified.
    3. Anyone who still takes a fighting stance after being Tased is VERY DANGEROUS, not just to the officers, but potentially to people in the crowd.
    4. The initial baton blow by the officer in the video is perfectly placed, they exact way they are trained, to immediately drop a perpetrator to their knees while inflicting as little damage as possible. Even though it looked like the officer didn’t put a lot of force into it, that blow would have dropped most strong men. That this didn’t happen no doubt alarmed the officer, as it is another indication of how dangerous this drunk man was.
    5. The officer behind the man could very well have struck him in the back of the head (which would almost undoubtedly had rendered him unconscious). But this is a dangerous spot to strike a person – acting with restraint (potentially at the risk of their own safety), the officers targeted the guy’s legs in a an effort to subdue, rather than the head which would have ended the conflict, but potentially injured the guy.
    6. I sincerely thank the uniformed peacekeepers whose admirable performance in the face of personal danger maintains our safety and freedom in a public place such as the ball park.

  6. Greg
    April 11, 2011 3:24 pm

    geez…. I can’t believe all the people on here who want to sit around, hold hands and think pure thoughts… maybe sing a round of Kumbayah…

    This guy should’a got a beat down. He’s lucky he didn’t. What if your kids were there? What if your wife? or your Mom?

  7. Ty
    April 11, 2011 4:14 pm

    Well said Bill H.

  8. kevin
    April 11, 2011 4:19 pm

    I’m still not clear on the MENSA fraternity chanting USA, USA. What am I missing here? Also, who is the woman shreiking on the video for the cops to stop? I’m sure had she been sitting behind Captain cooler she’d have a different attitude on things. The guy was a jack ass, the cops did what they needed to do. I would hope it could be done quicker to get him out of there. 90 seconds or whatever it was is a long time in a situation like that. By the way, stadium security guy in any arena anywhere is useless in situations like this.

  9. oh please
    April 11, 2011 5:00 pm

    The worst thing that happened to that guy was not the tasing or the clubbing, it was being put on the ground in that puddle of beer, water and yuck from hundreds of shoes tramping in and out of the public restrooms.

  10. That's a beating?
    April 12, 2011 12:09 am

    I think my mom whacked us harder with a hair brush when we misbehaved as kids. Actually, I wanted someone to hit the woman who was screaming in the background.

    In all seriousness, a friend who works at PNC said that the number of drunks at games is out of control. Try sitting near one for a whole game and you’d probably want him ejected. Even better, subject your kids to a few drunks and you would want to whack him with a hair brush.

  11. Adriane
    April 12, 2011 12:11 am

    I’m with #24.

  12. JennyMoon
    April 12, 2011 10:10 am

    Thank you #59 for giving me the heebeejeebees! You can wack me, you can tase me but please don’t put me in that puddle of gross. YUK!

  13. DBoz
    April 12, 2011 10:14 am

    What doesn’t make sense to me are all of the people that want the police officers to just physically restrain the guy. It seems to me that the last thing you would want the police officer to do is to establish physical contact with an uncooperative person. Remember that these police officers are carrying loaded firearms. If an officer grabs this idiot from behind, but is unable to subdue him, this idiot could possibly get the officer’s. Not something you want to take a chance with.

  14. Heather
    April 12, 2011 11:59 am

    If you get drunk and act like a douchebag, bad things will happen to you. And you will deserve them, because you’re a drunken douchebag. That’s the lesson I’m taking from this.

  15. Sean
    April 12, 2011 2:08 pm

    After seeing the guy’s lack of reaction to a nightstick to the head, and the fact that he shook off the initial taser shot, I don’t know if there’s any amount of force that would be considered excessive.

    None of the strikes to the drunk in question had any malice behind them. There was a clear intent to hit pressure points in order to stun/incapacitate him, not to maim or injure him.

  16. Lee
    April 12, 2011 3:35 pm

    As a person who works as an usher at sporting events (though admittedly not at PNC Park) I think the comments from D-Town and Naten53 are ridiculous. “D_town — The rent a usher should have also stayed out of it — and Naten53 — how come no one is saying that the PNC Park employee escalated the incident by jumping in and blocking the high five when the man was leaving and then acting like a tough guy after getting shoved.”
    First, tell me what an attempted high-five looks like coming from a person who is being escorted out of the seats by police? Does it look a little like a drunk guy swinging his arm toward another person? Do you think maybe the usher was attempting to block the drunk guy from hitting another fan? or to keep a fan from hitting the drunk guy being escorted out?
    “rent-a-ushers” as you call us are sort of a first line of security at sporting events and concerts. Most of the time, we never have to call in outside help because most people never need more than a warning to stop whatever they’re doing. When an usher needs help, they call security. When security needs help, they call the police (who are already at the sporting event, it’s not as if someone called 911 to get a cop there. Cops are scheduled to work all sporting events).
    If you’re so unruly that the police need to be called to handle you and you STILL DON’T FOLLOW orders from the police officer, you’re going to be in big, big trouble.
    The PNC Park usher’s JOB was to step in between the patron and the person being escorted out by police. His job is to keep people as safe as he can. If I saw a drunk guy swinging his arm toward another fan, I might have stepped in between them as well.
    He was trying to keep the situation from escalating, he was not the reason it escalated.

  17. northside15212
    April 13, 2011 11:00 am

    Police are taught first to NOT engage suspects physically in close quarter “combat.” That is how guns get taken from police officers and that is why they issue a series of commands for the suspect to submit entirely prior to engaging them. Given the nature of the crowd (I was there and this went on for 10 minutes before he came out of the stands and HALF the section was pitifully drunk, loud-mouthed, vulgar college jackasses), emphasis is placed on subduing the suspect as quickly as possible, asserting control of the situation, and getting the suspect out of the environment. There is a tipping point in every drunk, rowdy crowd, where rowdy turns into “mob mentality.” Hence the urgency to establish and maintain control quickly and extract the non-compliant offender. It was ugly to watch but I think given the circumstances of a drunk and unruly crowd, the police acted appropriately. Sidebar: The fact that questions about this officer’s less than stellar pass are a part of this conversation is precisely why he shouldn’t be employed by the Pittsburgh PD.

  18. mfj
    April 13, 2011 11:55 am

    On a related subject, what the hell is up with KDKA? Every other news outlet in town has reported on the story of the KDKA producer who also got arrested and allegedly said “I work for KDKA and I’m gonna fry your ass!” I know broadcast journalism is more about hair and makeup than it is about actual journalism, but their refusal to even acknowledge what happened makes them look really bush league.

  19. Pittsburgh Tom
    April 13, 2011 2:49 pm

    I was at the game, but not in that section so I can’t speak personally of what happened in the video, but from where I was in the upper deck right around third base, I could hear chants of “Chug chug chug…” coming from that section while action was happening during the game. So it didn’t surprise me when I saw someone being taken down and handcuffed. For too many people, the opener was an excuse to get drunk during a weekday.
    I do not get how people are trying to put this in the same category as more notorious police beatings. The police gave the man plenty of opportunity to leave on his own accord. Then, when he continued to be uncooperative, they used just enough force to get him down and in handcuffs. Then they stopped the force. This wasn’t a case of cops ganging up on an innocent guy and beating him longer than necessary and until serious injury requiring hospitalization occurred. That is, to me, what the local media seems to be trying to make it out to be.

  20. VAgirl
    April 13, 2011 9:46 pm

    Watched the game at home and noticed that the crowd was a little rowdy when the camera was on the fans. I just don’t think you should hit a person from the neck up. Concussion alert. He was a jerk though. Another reason we should increase the drink tax to cover EMS and police funding.

  21. burghgal
    April 14, 2011 2:12 pm

    I just want to know who can get whapped with a nightstick multiple times and still stand?