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:

YouTube Preview Image

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’.





71 Comments


  1. Butcher's Dog
    April 11, 2011 9:48 am

    Kinda like a bullpen I’ve seen before: three guys to get one man out.

    Just sayin’.



  2. Julie
    April 11, 2011 9:51 am

    Very interesting in that most people I heard on the radio this morning were pro-cop. The prevailing attitude is that people have lost respect for the police. I feel that respect has been lost because more often than not, when you have an encounter with a policeman, you get attitude, bravado and general assholishness. And then there’s the fact that they seem to coddled their most troubled – and eventually promote the crap out of them (see George Trosky).



  3. spoon
    April 11, 2011 9:54 am

    When you tazer a dude in the junk and he doesnt fall, you need excessive force.



  4. Matt
    April 11, 2011 9:57 am

    Sadly, this won’t be the last beating Pirate fans see at PNC Park this year.



  5. Monty
    April 11, 2011 10:01 am

    That big lunchbox looks so sad sitting on its side amidst the ruin and beer sludge at 1:30.

    Big lonely lunchbox. It’s like a yinzer Rosebud.



  6. Juror Nullification
    April 11, 2011 10:04 am

    That’s the same Frank Rende.

    I think your assessment of the incident is fair. It really isn’t clear whether the level of force used was excessive because we can’t perceive the emotions, twitches, flinches, attitude, demeanor, etc. of the USA guy – he looks to be a pretty intimidating guy to me. The other thing to consider is that this particular group of cops doesn’t appear to be particularly strapping, i.e. physically fit enough to just grab the guy and effortlessly wrestle him into handcuffs, so they probably had no choice but to resort to nightsticks and tasers. So yes, Rende is a scumbag, but he and his comprades just appear from one perspective to be a group of frumpy, out of shape middle-aged trying to get control of a situation in the only way they think they physically can, perhaps w/a tad bit more force than we in the peanut gallery might think would be necessary if we were the ones dealing w/this drunken dope. Just my opinion.



  7. empirechick
    April 11, 2011 10:12 am

    I must be in the minority on this, but I thought tazers were intended for use in situations where your only other option was the gun – as in, the last resort before the really really last resort. And yet they taze teenagers (that kid who ran onto the field during a Phillies game, when the old fat cop and security people couldn’t run him down) and pregnant women who won’t sign traffic tickets.

    So I guess these people whould be grateful they got tazed, otherwise they would have gotten shot??



  8. empirechick
    April 11, 2011 10:14 am

    Along with my point and Juror Null’s – do cops have physical fitness standards?



  9. Me
    April 11, 2011 10:16 am

    I guess I kinda figure that, if this guy was so out of control that PNC Park security could not handle the situation and had to call in the actual Police, I’m not sure that we can get the whole story from this little bit of footage.



  10. bucdaddy
    April 11, 2011 10:19 am

    B-Dog,

    Oh, snap.

    I don’t see a fighting stance here (unless you count him deliberately elbowing what looked like a park employee), and anyway, how much fighting can you do holding that moron-sized lunchbox? And how did he get that thing in the park anyway? IIRC there’s a limit to how big a lunch bag you can bring into the park (since 9/11) and that thing is hella lot bigger. It looks like it could hold a case of beer.

    Nevertheless, the decent fans who had to endure sitting near this guy for however many innings probably approve.



  11. Dan (Not Onorato)
    April 11, 2011 10:20 am

    All he has to do is comply with the ushers and this entire situation wouldnt have escalated. THEN he should have complied with the police officers when they came.

    No pity for him at all.

    @ Julie I agree with the callers this AM. Do you think that the attitude, bravado and general assholishness is because of jackwagons like this guy? An officer was just shot last week…and 4 or 5 were killed in the last few years. How many have been hurt trying to catch idiots that try to get away with doing the wrong thing? I believe they have the right to be “assholish” when the people they are supposed to be protecting are trying to hurt them?

    How would you feel?



  12. lovesthenorthside
    April 11, 2011 10:22 am

    about the only thing i can agree with at this point is that the fans chanting “usa” should be ashamed.

    well, that and comments #1 and #4.



  13. bucdaddy
    April 11, 2011 10:25 am

    Quoting the food and beverage gate policy:

    “Each Guest is permitted to bring one bag into the ballpark. In conjunction with MLB, PNC Park regulations provide that bags, purses, fanny packs and backpacks 16x16x8-inch or smaller are permitted. All bags are subject to search upon entry and within the ballpark. Soft-sided coolers and soft-sided briefcases are permitted.”

    I guess that would be a soft-sided cooler.



  14. inBrookline
    April 11, 2011 10:30 am

    While getting whacked with a night stick might seem excessive, I think the officers were following protocol. Excessive would be something like repeated smacks to the head (think Rodney King), the cops here did the standard smack on the neck then knee… two zones that usually cause someone to drop to the ground. That big fella was just too drunk to feel it.

    Engaging the guy in a wrestling match is the last thing any cop would want to do regardless of how physically fit they are. It’s safer to subdue him before fighting him.



  15. rjq
    April 11, 2011 10:34 am

    I’m pretty sure there is more than one officer and I’m also seeing that the officer tasing and the officer billying are two different men. He and his partner appear to be following procedure. That man was physically/verbally combative with PNC staff and fans (children included.) The statement from police, unfortunate as it is, is standard ‘speech’ when writing up a report. If the guy’s being placed under arrest, and resisting, it doesn’t matter what an officer did in the past. Living in a law enforcement household has taught me that even the good cops will eventually be grieved against, justified or not. Some (not all) of Rende’s charges could have been fabricated.

    And the people cheering and goading this idiot should be ashamed.



  16. Erin
    April 11, 2011 10:35 am

    I’m getting tired of defending the police and issuing the same disclaimer Ginny does about “who knows what we’d do in that situation”, etc. When the big dude was standing there mouthing off, yet not moving towards the officer, another officer could’ve gotten behind him and cuffed him. I see no reason for a nightstick hit to the neck to someone who’s not charging at you. And I thought this before I knew it was Rende involved. That fact just makes me sick.



  17. Juror Nullification
    April 11, 2011 10:45 am

    Tasers are actually a lesser use of force than nightsticks – few seconds of intense pain & small scars from the sticking of a fishhook or two in your skin compared with the risk of shattered knee caps caused by a strike to the knee? Frankly, if I had the physical talent, I would much rather quickly yank the guy’s arms back and cuff him than hit him with a stick and wait for him to take a swing at me. But I would probably be in the same position as these cops dancing with this jerk.



  18. Ben
    April 11, 2011 10:48 am

    My wife and I took our daughters to the game Saturday and we were both stunned at how unusually drunk the crowd was. I mean, there’s always a few rowdies – but this seemed different. We also did not understand the USA chants, at the time. Now we do.



  19. HorseShoeBend
    April 11, 2011 10:49 am

    Wow, you’ve got to be kidding. Did I see him swing at another fan after the high five?

    My grandfather was a beat cop on North Side years ago. I’m told if the man said sit still and be quiet that is what you did. No questions, no possible flinches, no bullshit. What’s that have to do with anything? It’s called respect and this guy lost his for himself and those around him likely 12 beers (and who knows what else) too late (big fellow). One can only hope it is a lesson learned. C’mon this is not police brutality and that’s likey not the worst beating that guy has taken. On to the lawsuits, lawyers and ultimately more bullshit that will undoubtedly take place. If he was at the local pub doing the same wouldn’t you have kicked his ass too? Taser? Shit…

    Move along – nothing to see here (aka Leslie Neilson in Police Detective???)…Go Bucs!!!



  20. rjq
    April 11, 2011 11:02 am

    What if the officers did try to take him down and he grabbed one of their guns? I’m glad they didn’t try to wrestle him to the ground. He looks like Kurt Angle.



  21. Bram R
    April 11, 2011 11:08 am

    I’m a little curious what happened to start this. I read the same reporting of the criminal complaint as you as to how this allegedly became an incident. Yet at the very start of the video, when he’s walking down the steps, the fans are already chanting, “USA! USA!” which of course led to the ill-fated high five attempt. Kind of makes you wonder what had happened upstairs that a bunch of other Pirates fans were already on his side. Those all might have just been random unruly college drunks, but usually when someone is a problem in the stands there are cheers when the offender is confronted and removed. I think the fact that this guy was popular in his own way, and making funny faces, had a lot do with the fact that he wound up getting hit above the collarbone a few times right in front of the crowd.



  22. Tim
    April 11, 2011 11:21 am

    I saw a video this morning that showed the cops asking him to leave his seat and he refused. They then told him they could do this the hard way or the easy way. He responded: The Hard Way Brotha.

    However, I can’t find the video anywhere now to prove this.



  23. Julie
    April 11, 2011 11:26 am

    @ Dan (not) – I totally understand about the recent rash of cop killings. I also see a lot of cops, um, over stepping bounds with minor things like traffic tickets and such. (this is a generalization, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head) I’ve seen, over the years, article upon article of city officers that end up charged with domestic violence and such…and nothing ever comes of the charges. Someone is protecting their own. The cop I mentioned in my first post is one of them. That man shouldn’t have a job let alone be a commander.

    I guess its a double edged sword. I think there are a lot of people out there that don’t respect cops, and I think there are a lot of cops out there that don’t respect their own authority.



  24. unsatisfied
    April 11, 2011 11:29 am

    can we tase bob nutting?



  25. rickh
    April 11, 2011 12:07 pm

    Nice jorts.

    It’s also reported that the guy threatened to kill the PNC Park attendant the next time he sees him. That should be good for a few more swats to the head in my book.



  26. D_town
    April 11, 2011 12:08 pm

    Looked like the cop was trying to provoke the guy. The rent a usher should have also stayed out of it.



  27. MadMax
    April 11, 2011 12:17 pm

    “Fighting stance” my ass!!

    Just another example of the sadistic jack-booted thugs we overpay!

    Paul Abel?? Still on the job! Thanks union!



  28. NicoleinTallahassee
    April 11, 2011 12:25 pm

    Here’s my question: What is proper protocol these days? When you’re trying to arrest someone do you automatically tase that person first? Then hit them with the billy club, then cuff them?

    I don’t understand why they didn’t grab his wrists, twist them behind his back, and cuff him. He wasn’t advancing or even moving when they decided to tase him.

    I’m not excusing his behavior whatsoever and definitely thought he should have been arrested for disorderly conduct and/or assulat on that PNC Park employee, but if you simply refuse to move, you get tased? I don’t understand the police protocol procedures on this I guess …



  29. Julie
    April 11, 2011 12:28 pm

    @ Nicole….I agree. I think this guy deserved to be arrested…but if he was as “highly intoxicated” as a lot of the people interviewed have said (I’ve heard a lot of calls into radio shows from people who were there) how hard would it be to subdue him? I mean, your reflexes are so slow when you are drunk…you mean two or three of them couldn’t subdue him and handcuff him?



  30. Rich D
    April 11, 2011 12:29 pm

    If a cop gives you an order and you refuse, he or she should be allowed to freely beat or taze you until you comply. I also think they should be allowed to shoot you if you try and run, but that’s just me.



  31. Julia
    April 11, 2011 12:36 pm

    I don’t think this is police brutality at all. You have a huge guy who is completely wasted, feeling no pain, and not backing off or standing down. You also have a crowd of people cheering him on, and who knows if at any moment some idiot from the crowd wants to jump in on the action, igniting an already dangerous situation. They’re just lucky they got that asshole out of the stands before he got into a physical fight with someone. If that idiot was acting like that in front of my kid, his behavior wouldn’t have gone on for more than a couple minutes, let alone innings.



  32. Julia
    April 11, 2011 12:38 pm

    @ #28 and #29: Have you ever tried to subdue a man who’s completely wasted? Try it, then tell me how easy you still think it is.



  33. Karen S.
    April 11, 2011 12:42 pm

    I think that tasers are used WAY too freely. It’s not a Star Trek phaser set to stun. And it’s not like they tased him, and it didn’t work because he’s a superhumanoid who will trample Pittsburgh. It didn’t penetrate his clothing, and they panicked. Why did they let the guy walk 5 feet in front of them if he was such a burly burly threat to humanity? And the USA chant is because he was wearing an (impenetrable) USA jacket.

    Tasers seem now to be the first tool that is used and I find it absolutely ridiculous. The situation was mishandled.

    The police should not be able to beat or taze you into submission, Rich D., because this is the United States of America, for heavens sake.



  34. bucdaddy
    April 11, 2011 12:46 pm

    Julie,

    Does that guy look like his reflexes are slow? He’s not staggering coming down the steps. I’m going to suggest that if you tase a guy built like a bull and he hardly seems to feel it, he might have more than beer in him. I don’t know what kind of beast I have on my hands. At least, that’s how I’m going to look at it if I’m a cop.

    He got tased because he hit a guy.

    Oh, and this wasn’t some beered-up frat boy. Story up at the PG says he’s 41.



  35. big chuck
    April 11, 2011 12:49 pm

    when you act like a a$$ clown you get treated like one.



  36. Russell
    April 11, 2011 12:51 pm

    I heard the play by play of this on WDVE this morning, but didn’t get the full impact of it until watching the video here. Fighting stance or not, the guy clearly wasn’t going down. I have no idea what police protocol is, but it didn’t appear excessive to me.



  37. NicoleinTallahassee
    April 11, 2011 12:51 pm

    @ Julia – all I’m asking is what the proper protocol is. Is it now the protocol that if you ask someone to do something and they simply refuse while also not moving, advancing or anything, is the proper protocol to tase?

    If that’s the case, what the heck would the cops have done if we didn’t have tasers? Just beat him until he gets on the ground? Oh wait, they did that ….



  38. NicoleinTallahassee
    April 11, 2011 12:53 pm

    @ Julia – all I’m asking is what the proper protocol is. Is it now the protocol that if you ask someone to do something and they simply refuse while also not moving, advancing or anything, is the proper protocol to tase?

    If that’s the case, what the heck would the cops have done if we didn’t have tasers? Just beat him until he gets on the ground? Oh wait, they did that ….

    Aren’t police officers trained to grab someone by the wrists, turn them around, and cuff them? And his size is part of this argument? Again, aren’t they trained to handle all shapes and all sizes of people??

    So he’s a big guy, but he’s certainly not in the minority of what an average 41-year old american man looks like – overweight with a stocky build …



  39. Dan (Not Onorato)
    April 11, 2011 12:55 pm

    @ 33. Karen

    I disagree with you, the situation was not mishandled. All he had to do was comply…no wait…all he had to do was not be a drunken a-hole in the first place. Problem averted.

    If a person is not complying with the officers commands and could pose a threat, they should have the right to beat AND taze you into submission WITHOUT recourse.

    And the chanters in the background egging him on are idiots as well.



  40. MizzPenz
    April 11, 2011 1:02 pm

    @Nicole Your questions lead me to believe that maybe you think this man did nothing wrong. It’s not like he was some random person that just happened to be standing there and the police came along and decided to tase him. He was out of control in stands. He was verbally abusive to a female PNC employee. He threatened to kill a certain usher if he ever saw him again. He shoved another employee after leaving his seats.

    What do YOU think the protocol should be? The argument that police should be able to handle people of all shapes and sizes is ridiculous. The police aren’t superheroes. They were doing what was in the best interest of the fans and THEMSELVES. That’s right. The police generally don’t have a death wish. They made an easy and quick decision to tase this man to take him down. Guess what? It was ineffective. If a taser couldn’t bring him down, do you think the police could have on their own?



  41. NicoleinTallahassee
    April 11, 2011 1:18 pm

    I’m not condoning what this guy did. I certainly believe he should have been arrested for disorderly conduct and assault as I previously stated. I’ll even through in terroristic threats for threatening the PNC Park employee. I realize his behavior in the stands is what caused this whole thing to begin with.

    All I’m simply asking, as I’m unfamiliar with police procedure, what is the official protocol? If the official protocol is to tase someone who is not following instructions, then I think every action is justified.

    I just think immediately jumping to tasing someone is a little out of control these days.

    I’m also questioning how the police officers are being trained … so police officers should be handed tasers and told “here, use this if someone is bigger than you?”. Again, how were police trained and what did police do before tasers?

    We have seen severe side effects of tasers being used that have resulted in severe injury or death – the police officers might as well use guns if that’s the case …



  42. rickh
    April 11, 2011 1:21 pm

    Maybe the officers should have escorted him to the Hall Of Fame Club and shared some lowfat yogurt while discussing his issues with authority. Better?



  43. Juror Nullification
    April 11, 2011 1:26 pm

    A police officer can use a taser if a person (who isn’t pregnant or elderly or a child) fails to comply with verbal directions. It sounds brutish, but seriously, unless you are Chuck Norris, i.e. a very strong, skilled cop (heh, heh, not all cops are), you are going to have to resort to something other than your fists when dealing w/a bull like this guy. And remember, it’s not supposed to be a fair fight, the cops are supposed to win and win quickly – you could beat him w/a stick and risk breaking something or getting so close to him that he hurts you or you could shoot him with a taser from a distance.



  44. NicoleinTallahassee
    April 11, 2011 1:33 pm

    Thank you #43. That’s all I was wondering!



  45. Wife of...
    April 11, 2011 1:36 pm

    All police officers are tased before being allowed to use a taser, as well as maced before being allowed to use mace.



  46. bucdaddy
    April 11, 2011 1:40 pm

    A comment from BucsDugout:

    Courtesy of giebs24 at ThePensBlog who copied and pasted from The Jimknob on the original YouTube video.

    I was there and actually standing right next to the camera guy before he was told to move back. It all started because the guy was yelling and swearing at a female employee while she was doing her job. He was ASKED to leave by security officials and he refused. When the police showed up he was again ASKED to leave and he again refused. The officer threatened him that if he didn’t move that [he was] going to get tasered. The guy refused..

    The officer then pulled out his taser (the crowd surrounding the guy scattered but he didn’t move). He was asked again to leave at which point he finally got up and began getting escorted down the stairs. A random fan came up and tried to high five the guy and a security officer tried to block high five. The guy then pushed the security guard and that is when the police used the taser. However, the prongs didn’t go through his coat so nothing happened. He just turned around and taunted…

    He began grabbing his crotch and refusing to go to the ground when being told by the Police. The guy was clearly resisting arrest. At any point he could have gotten violent with the police so I have no problem with how they handled the situation. This guy deserved everything he got and any punishment that he’s going to get through the courts.

    by blackjackfishtaco on Apr 10, 2011 4:38 PM PDT



  47. Butcher's Dog
    April 11, 2011 2:11 pm

    To me excessive force would have been bouncing his face off the pavement once they had him down. They needed to get him onto the ground to subdue him fully and they did that. No kicks, no punches, no sandblasting the cement with his face. They got him to his feet and took him out. Cops get a lot of leeway in my book. Too many get shot to make life comfortable on a daily basis.



  48. Cnik
    April 11, 2011 2:12 pm

    It’s easy… how to NOT get your ass kicked by police:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsVrEyKlVXE

    step 1.. obey the law… think of them as hints…
    :)



  49. Butcher's Dog
    April 11, 2011 2:12 pm

    Also, @ # 46: blackjackfishtaco would make a great band name. Just sayin’.



  50. Tiffany
    April 11, 2011 2:20 pm

    I wrote a blog last night about poorly this incident reflects on our city, both on the part of the fan and the cop.

    And sad that the kids in the stands saw this whole kerfuffle unfold.