GARY — The city’s top cop is recommending a Gary officer be reprimanded after she arrested and forcibly stopped a man from filming her on-duty in a public space Sept. 1.
In a Jan. 10 letter to the Gary Police Civil Service Commission recommending discipline, Police Chief Richard Allen said Officer Nicretia Jones violated several of the department’s standard operating procedures.
Jones disrespected the individual’s constitutionally protected civil rights, knowingly made false statements and engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer, Allen wrote.
This is the latest development in the case involving Edward Michael Strauss, 36, of Gary.
Across the Region, Strauss has been arrested on numerous occasions over the years on charges of criminal trespassing and other, alleged crimes as he seemingly toes the line with cops and tests his First Amendment freedoms.
An avid video blogger and self-described citizen "journalist," Strauss historically films on-duty officers and considers himself as auditor of the First Amendment.
Strauss was arrested Sept. 1 in Gary for filming Jones from a public walkway. Shortly after he was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement in connection with the incident, he filed a complaint with the department.
After a video of Strauss' arrest circulated on YouTube, the Gary Police Department announced an internal investigation was underway into its officers' actions.
Strauss also filed two lawsuits against Gary on Jan. 18, one for the Sept. 1 incident and another incident at Majestic Star Casino in May.
'You trying to go to jail?'
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 into a domestic situation nearby.
Later in the video, Jones approaches Strauss, who is standing in the roadway, and says, "Sir, why are you recording me?"
"Because I can?" Strauss 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."
Allen: Strauss was not interfering
The chief said Jones and two other officers were responding to a disturbance in the 4200 block of West 11th Place in Gary when Jones saw Strauss videotaping the officers nearby “but not close enough to cause an actual interference.”
Jones approached Strauss as he crossed the street and repeatedly ordered him to stop recording, Allen wrote.
When Strauss refused and asked Jones for her name and badge number, Jones “grabbed Strauss’ arm that was holding the camera and Strauss pulled his arm back.”
Jones and a second officer then arrested Strauss and placed him in the back of the squad car.
“Ofc. (Officer) Jones had previously received procedural justice training that specifically trained her to handle this situation differently. Her failure to comply with her training is highly detrimental to the Gary Police Department and the city,” Allen wrote.
'Without recording those lies'
In the video, Jones and a male colleague demanded 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!"
"Take me to jail. You know what? You just violated my rights!" Strauss yelled as he's handcuffed on the ground.
A federal lawsuit filed Jan. 18 against the department and officers involved allege the department wrongfully apprehended him based on alleged false statements submitted by Jones in the probable cause affidavit.
The affidavit alleges Strauss was walking on private property and resisted arrest.
The suit contends Strauss’ rights were violated when the officers interfered with his right to freedom of speech, specifically recording police activity while in the official course of duty.
"Without Strauss' recording those lies would perpetuate, causing further loss of liberty," the lawsuit states.
A disciplinary hearing for Jones has not yet been scheduled, Police Civil Service Commission Administration Angela Brown said.