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Witnesses say the security staff and police at Raymond James Stadium used unnecessary roughness when fans rushed the field after a USF Bulls victory. There is the history of some post-game celebrations that require the effort to keep fans from the playing field. But, excessive force by police in crowd control or making an arrest can itslf be a problem and cause injuries.

“Fans want call of unnecessary roughness after USF win. Witnesses say the security staff at Raymond James Stadium used unnecessary roughness when fans rushed the field after a victory.” This is the lead of a St. Pete Times article today.

“As the clock ticked down the final seconds of the University of South Florida Bulls’ huge upset victory over Louisville on Saturday night…[fans]…rushed from the stands onto the football field at Raymond James Stadium…”

“[They]…were met with Tasers, batons and handcuffs from security personnel.”

“The hundreds of police officers and security guards at the scene were simply trying to keep fans off the field for their own safety, officials said.”

“But some fans say the officers used excessive force.”

Just who is responsible for what injuries when security personnel and police themselves cause harm?

The Times story correctly presents the concerns of stadium officials and the police: “…someone broke a leg at Saturday’s game and also when fans rushed the field two years ago.”

“Goal posts have been responsible for at least 22 deaths nationally in the last 20 years, according to SafeUSA, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C.”

“And because tensions are high after games, especially big games, someone could get beaten up when the winning team’s fans mix with the losing team’s players…”

But, excessive force by police can itslf be a problem. The story describes what some witnesses saw:

“USF professor Kathleen Armstrong compared the scene to a ’60s or ’70s war protest. Two or three officers would take down one fan, “throwing (the fan) on the ground, punching them in the head, the chest, the back or slamming them against the wall,” she said.

“Alec Smith, president of a school spirit group called the Beef Studs, said, “One officer was swinging his stick at people’s hands who were still in the stands. … It was just really disturbing.”

The law of Florida tries to strike a balance between the obligation of the police to maintain order or to make an arrest (which is certainly in the general public interest) and the right of each person to an uninjured and functioning body.

In determining whether officers applied excessive force in making an arrest (or controlling a crowd) a jury is usually instructed along these lines: whether the force used is reasonable is to be determined in light of the circumstances of each particular case; an officer can never use more force than reasonably appears to be necessary, or subject the person arrested to unnecessary risk of harm.

There you have it – the clear and definitive deviding line between doing good and doing wrong when fans head for the goal posts.

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