ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. — Police in St. Joseph County say a group of men has been following, taking videos and harassing officers and the public while police perform their jobs. The group posts or livestreams the videos with ZERO regard for the privacy of everyday citizens. Meaning your private and personal information could be broadcasted to thousands of people on YouTube, including health conditions, social security numbers and a number of embarrassing incidents that true journalists and first responders never release to the public.
“They show up to calls when it’s not the finest hour for some people. We’re talking medical, domestic violence, sex crimes, crimes with kids. These are private situations that are now being broadcasted.” Rich Freeman, President of Mishawaka FOP Lodge 1, said. “It could be adultery and the whole world knows about it now. Somebody has died, their family hasn’t been notified yet. All of this personal, private information is now being broadcasted and monetized on YouTube without anyone’s permission.”
REAL News Michiana has gone through several of the videos posted to the group’s YouTube page. Many of the videos have well over 10,000 views. RNM will not identify to the page name or give information on how to find it as not to give the group any more online traffic than it already receives. Below shows just how aggressive they can be. The videos have been clipped from the group’s YouTube Channel as part of a bonafide news story and therefore fall within the Fair Use doctrine of US Copyright Law.
“These people are showing up with exposed firearms. They’ve made it very clear they’re anti-police. We’re now distracted from an emergency with an armed individual walking up.” Freeman said. “They’re putting themselves, police and anyone else in danger.”
In the picture below, you can see a firearm on the hip of one of the “filmers.” In the video, he and another man walked up on about half a dozen police who were responding to an incident in a parking garage in downtown South Bend.
The following video shows police responding to burglary in progress call. At the beginning, you see a group of “filmers” appearing to sneak up on the officers. One of the “filmers” shines a light on one officer, now exposing his silhouette to any criminal who could be looking to do him harm.
Freeman says the “filming” started about a year ago. The biggest concern for him is protecting the public.
“They (the filmers) drive around listening to a scanner and show up on calls. They may show up before we even arrive depending on where they are.” Freeman explained. “Their scanner has the ability to receive information on it; driver license numbers, date of birth, social security numbers. That info is now being blasted onto their YouTube channel.”
Below is a video from a car accident in Indianapolis. You can see a mob of these “filmers” approaching police and the people involved in the crash. Not only do they harass the officers, listen as they hurl insults at an older woman who was involved in the crash.
According to Freeman, there is little the police can do to prevent the filmers from interfering at this point. However, he says has been in conversations with state lawmakers on tightening up the laws and the prosecutor’s office to find solutions that protect the 1st amendment right of the filmers while also protecting the privacy of private citizens.
RNM reached out to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office for comment, but did not get a response.
RNM has been able to identify two of the people involved in the local filming. Since their goal is to get as much publicity as possible, RNM will not name them in this story. However, one of them was arrested for possessing a bomb in the 1980’s.