Renton Police investigate parody cartoon videos

3:21 PM, Aug 5, 2011   |    comments
A screenshot from one of several online videos that mock the Renton, Wash. Police Department
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RENTON, Washington (KIRO) -- Police in a Washington State city are responding to criticism received regarding a criminal  investigation into a cartoonist who posted satirical videos about the department on YouTube.

On Wednesday, CBS affiliate KIRO 7 broke the story of a cartoonist who is apparently being targeted by the Renton City Prosecutor for producing a series of videos mocking the Renton Police Department.

Watch: Online videos mock, criticize police department

The city is attempting to jail the cartoonist on charges of cyberstalking. First Amendment advocates have called the move an "extreme abuse of power."

"Some of the videos are incidents of misconduct, some are unsubstantiated, some are rumors, some are previous internal investigations that were found to be unfounded and some are just flat out untrue and lies," Renton police Chief Kevin Milosevich said in a Thursday news conference. "I would rather err on the side of investigating all complaints (and) alleged criminal misconduct rather than risk failing to investigate a crime that's been reported."

KIRO 7 was repeatedly told Milosevich wasn't available in days prior.

The mystery cartoonist hasn't been revealed yet, but the Renton police and the local prosecutor got a judge to approve a request sent to Google -- the videos were posted to YouTube, which is owned by Google -- to discover the cartoonist's identity.

Renton police have said they are preparing to release all of the parody videos, which we will post as soon as possible.

In addition to the news conference, Renton police responded to the fallout by issuing a statement. Here is the full text of the Renton police statement:

"The Renton Police Department has received some media attention regarding an on-going cyberstalking investigation.

"While I will not discuss the specific details of the investigation, I will provide some information regarding the actions that we have taken.

"Cyberstalking under RCW 9.61.260 is defined as:

"1. A person is guilty of cyberstalking if he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party:

"a. Using any lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language or suggesting the commission of any lewd or lascivious act. Cyberstalking is a misdemeanor crime unless some specific requirements are met which will result in a Class C Felony.

"Early this year, a series of nine videos were posted on YouTube. The purpose of these videos was to embarrass, torment, and harass specific members of the police department and other city employees. The videos currently posted by a local media outlet are a very mild representation of the entirety of the contents. The videos that are the basis of the criminal investigation are being released this afternoon.

"Often, law enforcement is accused of failing to investigate incidents of misconduct, and/or minimizing the actions of officers. The videos we are releasing today meet the definition of a crime. As with other reports of crime occurring within the City, we will investigate to determine if a crime has been committed and to prosecute such crime.

"In this case, we obtained search warrants for various internet sources in an attempt to identify the suspect in the case. We believe that the suspect in this case is either a department employee or one who is closely associated with the department.

"Once a thorough investigation has been completed, and if the suspect is identified, the case will be submitted to the appropriate prosecutor's office for review. It is the responsibility of the prosecutor's office to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

"As the Police Chief, I have the responsibility to the citizens of Renton to ensure that our officers are acting within the law and within department policy. I would rather err on the side of investigating all incidents of alleged criminal misconduct rather than risk failing to investigate a crime."

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