Do these pictures send the wrong message? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Do these pictures send the wrong message? SBPD Responds


FOX28 has received pictures showing kids being towed behind an unmarked police car in South Bend.

A South Bend man tells us the photos were taken Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot at LaSalle Intermediate Academy. The photos show a vehicle with a light bar and a police license plate towing the children on sleds.

South Bend Police tell FOX28 News they were made aware of the photos around noon on Thursday and have started an investigation.

Police tell us the car was assigned to Investigator Will Johnson, a Patrolman First Class. Supervisors have been in contact with Johnson and have taken the car from him during the investigation. Police also say Child Protective Services has been contacted, which is mandated. They're also hoping to talk with the person who took the pictures.

Police are looking into the pictures in two ways, whether a department policy was violated and whether it is legal. South Bend Police spokesperson Phil Trent told FOX28's Tom Powell "99 times out of 100" if a patrolman saw someone doing this, they would ask you to stop.  He says the circumstances would determine whether or not you would receive a citation.

Gary Morseau took the pictures outside LaSalle Intermediate Academy on Elwood Avenue Wednesday.  School was not in session because of the bad weather.  Morseau says he snapped the pictures from inside his house across the street.  "It looked like they were having fun," he says.  "After I took the photos, I got a little more upset when I saw it was a city owned car." 
South Bend Police say the car in Morseau's pictures is indeed one of the department's vehicles.  "We're looking at Officer Will Johnson who is an investigator with our department, " says Captain Phil Trent.  "He's the individual who is assigned that vehicle in question."  Trent says supervisors have contacted Investigator Johnson to see if he was the one behind the wheel. 

We don't know how he responded yet. but we do know internal affairs is now involved to see if he violated department policy and/or the law.  "The car was assigned to him so it was under his control."

The car is now parked at police headquarters.  We're told it will stay there until police sort through the facts.  They'd like to hear from witnesses to learn more about exactly what happened Wednesday.  "It's disappointing," Trent says.  "It's outside the realm of our take-home car program, our take-home car policy."

Morseau says he's disappointed too. that a city owned car was used in such a manner.  "I think it's a misuse of taxpayer's money," he says.  "We entrust officers with that car, not to be out playing with it."

He wonders who paid for the gas and what would have happened if the car got stuck in a snow-bank, or worse... someone got hurt.

Not everyone sees a problem with what the pictures show.  There are more than 100 comments about the pics on the FOX28 Facebook Page.  "The people complaining about this need to chill out," writes Travis.

But Doris says quote, "Very dangerous situation.  Too many things can go wrong."

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