CROWN POINT, Ind. — Edward Strauss has a habit of video recording on-duty law enforcement officers.
Strauss, who goes by the moniker “Nomen Nescio” on YouTube, has a history of recording police, at times with another person. Both have been arrested for alleged criminal trespassing, according to local police departments.
According to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Strauss has been arrested or detained multiple times by various police departments in Northwest Indiana, including Dyer, Gary and Crown Point.
According to the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, Strauss was issued a warning in July for criminal trespassing, involving his attempt to video record a restricted area of Porter County Jail.
But last year, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals federal court in Philadelphia ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to film on-duty police officers in public. The three-judge panel’s decision marked a significant milestone for this controversial issue.
That case involved of Temple University student, Richard Fields, and a female member of a police watchdog group, Up Against the Law. In its decision, the court said the First Amendment’s protections “extended to two people who used their smartphones to record police interactions with a third party.”
“We ask much of our police. They can be our shelter from the storm,” Judge Thomas Ambro wrote for the court’s majority. “Yet officers are public officials carrying out public functions, and the First Amendment requires them to bear bystanders recording their actions. This is vital to promote the access that fosters free discussion of governmental actions, especially when that discussion benefits not only citizens but the officers themselves.”
Strauss, who now lives in the Aetna section of Gary, I’m told, was arrested by Valparaiso police in January for driving with a suspended license, police records show.
His latest exchange with police was Sept. 9 in Crown Point when he accompanied another person who was arrested for criminal trespassing, according to police Chief Pete Land.
This incident occurred just 8 days after being arrested by Gary police for disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement. On the evening of Sept. 1, Strauss recorded a video of Gary police officers conducting an investigation of a complaint in that city.
His video exchange with those officers, in which he appeared to be on public property, went viral on YouTube, where I found it at youtube.com/watch?v=YKUY83lepJE.
Recently, I wrote about that encounter and its broader concerns regarding video recording on-duty police officers.
Since then, I’ve heard from dozens offering conflicting feedback, including feedback from a former Gary police officer who took offense to the rising frequency of people video recording on-duty police.
The Philadephia court also ruled in favor of journalists video recording police, noting that if police can stop a casual bystander from doing it then it could lead to stopping professional journalists from doing it, too.
“Government operates best in sunlight, and the police are not an exception,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement after that ruling.
This ruling only confirmed what other federal appeals courts had previously decided, dating back to 2011, mostly to protect anyone who records police officers and their on-duty actions in public.
“Mr. Strauss did nothing illegal that night in Gary,” said George Meredith, of Calumet Township, who called me to complain about the Gary cops’ actions on Sept. 1. “Those cops had no right to hassle Mr. Strauss or arrest him.”
He’s correct, according to our First Amendment rights.
However, does this mean that anyone with a cellphone should shoot video of cops doing their job, even if it’s a mundane investigation of a complaint call, like what happened Sept. 1 in Gary?
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