Quite an embarrassment
Four people are facing charges and more could be in trouble after police review videotapes from a melee Friday night at a Wash High-Monessen boys basketball game in Monessen. Police say the incident, which Washington schools superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo described as a "riot," apparently began when a girl from Wash High and a female student from Monessen started "fighting over a male basketball player." The incident escalated, with some adults reportedly joining students in the fray. One person needed hospital treatment after the brawl, and police had to use Tasers on as many as four people to subdue them. The gym was cleared of fans before the game was allowed to continue. Two adults and a teen from Washington, along with a Monessen teen, were cited by police. It's bad enough that kids were acting like idiots, but it's shameful that so-called adults joined in. And now the superintendents of the two schools are displaying considerable gall by questioning how police handled the mess. For the record, four off-duty Monessen police officers had been hired to work the game. That right there tells me all I need to know about the atmosphere at Monessen games. If you need four cops at a high school baskeball game, you've got problems. And as it turns out, those four policemen weren't even enough to handle the mess that developed. They had to call for backup from neighboring police departments. But DiLorenzo and Monessen superintendent Cynthia Chelen are suggesting that police went overboard, questioning their use of Tasers to get the miscreants under control. Said Chelen, "Looking at the video (from TV), I'm not sure a Taser was necessary, but I was not there." So, the superintendent admittedly wasn't even at the game, yet she seems to think she knows what level of force was required to restore order. I guess Ms. Chelen would have no problem if the Monessen police chief comes to her and says, "You know, I just watched two minutes of classroom video, and I'm not sure you're doing a good job preparing your students for the PSSA tests." When it comes to how police handled this "riot," to use DiLorenzo's term, the superintendents need to put a sock in it. When severely outnumbered police officers are facing a situation where a brawl could conceivably escalate to involve dozens of people, they should do what they need to do to keep that from happening. I seem to recall that the City League in Pittsburgh used to play its football and basketball games in empty stadiums and gyms because of a legitimate, experience-based fear of violence by students and fans from the league schools. Perhaps the folks who run high school sports in Western Pennsylvania should take the same approach at places where students, parents and other fans have gained a reputation for not knowing how to act.