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Pennsylvania state trooper admits spoofing ninja criminal

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The mystery of at least one person dressing as a ninja in Fayette County has been solved.

Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Charles Frey Jr., who is in charge of the crime unit investigating 11 vehicle break-ins and a near-stabbing in Fayette County on April 24, admitted on Friday to dressing like a ninja in a YouTube parody of the case.

Santino Guzzo told police he confronted a masked man dressed in black who was breaking into vehicles. When Guzzo went to get a closer look, he said the man attempted to stab him with a sword and then ran over a cliff.

In the parody, a man dressed in black, a dark mask covering all but his eyes, demands that police halt their investigation, then asks for a case of Milwaukee's Best beer.

"Yeah, it's me," Frey told the Tribune-Review.

Asked whether any state police equipment was used to produce or post the videos, he said, "Absolutely not." He declined further comment.

Frey later told WPXI-TV that he did nothing to harm the image or reputation of the state police. He said he posted the video just for the humor of it.

"I'm making fun of a stupid criminal. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it," Frey said.

State police press secretary Jack Lewis in Harrisburg said the agency "has no comment at this time" on the videos or whether the agency has a policy on employees' use of social networking sites.

The parody appeared online a day after the break-ins. As of yesterday afternoon, it had been viewed 7,390 times. A sequel that debuted May 1, "Return of the Uniontown Ninja," had 957 views.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are grappling with issues regarding employees' use of social media, said R. Paul McCauley, a professor emeritus in criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who frequently testifies as an expert witness in court cases on police matters.

"You have a whole bunch of issues here, including freedom of expression, and the whole ethics regarding it being in law enforcement," McCauley said.

"It could have serious implications on careers and the specific criminal investigation in which the particular officer is involved, depending on what is posted for the public view," he said.

"I'd have to say most departments don't have any policy on it. But some of the information posted could definitely come back and bite an officer in the butt," McCauley said.

"It may be a spoof, but still," he said. "I would recommend not getting involved in that stuff if you're in law enforcement."

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