A Twitch streamer known as BlackBadge has garnered a lot of attention on the live streaming site in recent weeks, with the Oklahoman Special Deputy Officer recording himself while on patrol in his police car, chatting with his viewers while they listen in on his police radio and encouraging them to donate to his channel, all while on duty.
BlackBadge streams in Twitch’s IRL (in real life) category, which is designated for streamers who wish to interact with their viewers away from playing video games. Whereas most IRL streams typically revolve around general discussion between streamers and their viewers, BlackBadge instead allows his viewers to witness the action on one of his patrols, pulling over cars, issuing warnings and taking orders from over his police radio. All of this is broadcast live to thousands of viewers, with him leaving a tip jar on his channel that they donate to. Explaining the reasoning behind him accepting Twitch donations while on duty as a police officer, the information on BlackBadge’s page reads: “Cops are poor okay? Any extra dollar helps more than you can imagine.”
BlackBadge acknowledges the controversy that broadcasting such footage to the public will cause, issuing a disclaimer on his channel’s homepage, which reads: “Does a Police Officer doing an IRL stream make you mad? If you think your tax money goes to me, your wrong my friend. Please educate yourself before acting like a fool in my chat. Your Tax money goes to your local city Police Department. I am not employed by your city, or any city for that matter.”
He continues: “If you think complaining to my supervisor will change anything, you are wrong again. My IRL streams are meant to be a positive and educational experience so rest assured, my supervisors approve. If streaming put my career at risk I would not be doing it.”
BlackBadge live streams himself carrying out his duties for hours at a time.
While BlackBadge’s streams may not break the law, they arguably adopt a gray area ethically. Though he has yet to directly feature a member of the public in his streams, with him stating on his channel’s page that his broadcasts can “end at any time if needed to keep confidentiality a priority” and “are restricted to basic patrol, traffic control, minor job duties,” there is still the possibility that citizens BlackBadge interacts with could be identified by their vehicle. This typically wouldn’t be a problem with other channels, though considering that BlackBadge is a police officer and is filming himself dealing with unlawful activity, broadcasting any scenario in which members of the public could be identified becomes a more divisive issue. BlackBadge insists that he performs IRL streams for “educational purposes,” though it’s clear that this isn’t his sole motive, otherwise he wouldn’t be accepting donations and there wouldn’t be a virtual tip jar prominently featured in his videos.
There is also the argument that BlackBadge’s videos pick up little more than what would be stored on a dash cam, with him mostly keeping his recording device mounted on the dashboard of his car. However, as this footage is live streamed to his thousands of followers, there is definitely a wide gap between dash cam footage that is mostly viewed and used by the relevant authorities, and dash cam footage that is being used to earn donations on Twitch.
It’s an unorthodox channel, and one which Twitch understandably doesn’t cover in its IRL FAQ. BlackBadge also appears confident that he would face no repercussions if his channel was brought into question with his supervisors, even directing his viewers to fill in a complaint at their local police station if they disagree with his actions. However, while the legalities of his channel may be above aboard, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that something’s not quite right about a police officer staging a 3-hour Q&A with his viewers while simultaneously doing his job.