An internal investigation is underway at the Gary Police Department after officers were captured on video Sept. 1 arresting a person for filming them from what appears to be a public walkway.
With smartphone use increasingly common in recent years, an individual’s constitutional right to film on-duty officers has been hotly debated and called into question, but later affirmed through various lawsuits across the U.S.
‘You trying to go to jail?’
Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said the man — identified in court records as Edward M. Strauss, 36 — did not file a formal complaint with the Gary Police Department.
However, the department opened an internal investigation after learning of the video and receiving calls about the incident from people around the country, he said.
The video, posted to YouTube, opens up with Strauss walking toward a row of parked squads cars near his home in Gary. He comments that he is “not really sure” what’s going on as police are in the midst of an investigation nearby.
Later in the video, a female officer approaches Strauss, who is standing in the roadway, and says, “Sir, why are you recording me?”
“Because I can?” Strass responds.
“No, you can’t. Not of me. No, you can’t.”
“Well, I can. This is a public street and, by the way, you’re live on YouTube right now.”
“Well, I don’t care. You can’t record me. You can’t record me. You trying to go to jail?”
The officers move closer to Strauss as he continues recording while telling them to “back off of me.”
Court records show Strauss was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement in connection with the incident. Charges were filed Sept. 4 in Gary City Court.
The city of Gary did not respond to The Times’ public records request seeking the affidavit on Thursday.
The Times could also not independently confirm the names of the arresting officers.
Police chief: We do not condone the officers’ actions
In a Sept. 14 Facebook post pinned to the top of the department’s Facebook page, Police Chief Richard Allen wrote, “The Gary Police Department immediately began conducting an internal investigation reference the incident in our City where a citizen filmed officer’s on a call for service.”
“We appreciate the concern shown by the public and are diligently working towards an internal resolution. We do not condone the violation of any rights given to citizens in our GREAT nation,” the post reads.
In the video, the female officer and a male colleague demand for Strauss’ name and identification, telling him he’s acting disrespectful while repeatedly asking him if the camera is off and ordering that he not move.
When a third officer arrives, it’s explained to Strauss he’s allegedly interfering with an investigation and walking on someone else’s property. Strauss contends he was on a public sidewalk.
“I’m not walking on nobody else’s property,” Strauss replies.
The officers accuse him again of being on private property and tell him to lower his voice. A scuffle ensues, and Strauss yells, “Do not touch my camera!”
Seconds later, one male officer yells, ‘Get on the (expletive) ground!”
“You know what? You just violated my rights!” Strauss yells as he’s handcuffed on the ground.
Hamady said a decision on any possible discipline will be made after the department’s internal affairs division completes its investigation, he said.
The police chief can suspend officers for up to five days without bringing the matter before the Gary Police Commission. If the chief recommends a suspension of more than five days, he must file a formal complaint before the board.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson declined to comment on the investigation, citing a pending personnel matter.
“I fully support the importance of the police being able to engage in constitutional law enforcement as well of the right of citizens to record their interaction with the police and all city agencies,” Freeman-Wilson said.
The mayor said she herself was recently recorded engaging a citizen without her knowledge.