ACLU Suit Wants Chicago Police Department to Follow the Law

The person recording this, not the CPD officer assaulting a bus passenger, is engaged in criminal behavior

On August 18th, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago to challenge the Illinois Eavesdropping Act.  The Act, created in 1994, was put on the books to criminalize both private and public recordings made without the consent of all parties involved. Once on the books, the law was largely ignored by the police until the advent of cellphones turned the majority of Americans into amateur filmmakers and more specifically, made it rather simple for citizens to begin filming and recording the police while they were performing arrests and other official duties.

Once this occurred, the Act began to make a lot more sense to law enforcement officials.

The ACLU’s lawsuit mentions several Illinois residents who have faced felony eavesdropping charges because of the statute. They include an artist who felt it necessary to record his arrest as a form of protest, and a Northern Illinois University Student who filmed an encounter between the CPD and his brother at a drive thru. He felt it necessary to record the arrest because past experience taught him to be suspicious of the officers’ motives.

Unfortunately, many residents in the city of Chicago share this suspicion.

In 96, while an activist engaged in protests at the Democratic National Convention, I can recall an incident where a large gathering at Grant Park in downtown Chicago took place. A band was onstage performing an admittedly incendiary song directed at the Chicago Police Department while I, and many others watched with growing concern as several white vans pulled up on Michigan Avenue. The vans soon discharged several dozen police officers in riot gear. While they were assembling into formation, a CNN news truck also pulled up to the scene and as their cameras began to roll, the police officers climbed back into their vans and drove away. This was only my experience, but the newspapers of Chicago run rampant with stories of police abuse and scandal, similar to many other large cities.

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, said he believes the state’s eavesdropping law is a good one. Allowing people to make audio recordings of arrests “could potentially inhibit an officer from proactively doing his job,” Donahue said.

I would simply ask how this might be so, assuming the officers are doing their jobs correctly without any abuse of authority. In fact, it could be argued that if the police are doing their job as it is meant to be done, following the same laws they are sworn to protect, video and audiotape of an arrest could only be used to exonerate false accusations made against officers.

Mr. Donahue, at least in the article, did not expand on how officers might be inhibited, “proactively.”

The lawsuit, directed at Cook County State Attorney, Anita Alvarez said it received a copy, but had not had a chance to review it.

Whatever side of the debate one falls on, I do suspect CNN saved my ass fourteen years ago.

And in my opinion, police officers should have very little expectation of privacy these days, especially if the audio recordings aren’t enhanced to pick up voices below normal speaking levels, and especially as they are public servants performing public services.

If you’re just doing your job, what’s the problem?

Read the article:

ACLU challenges Illinois eavesdropping act

Have a nice day.

4 thoughts on “ACLU Suit Wants Chicago Police Department to Follow the Law

  1. That’s the ACLU for you, anything to attack the police trying to their job under horrible conditions.

    I’ll be that the ONLY exception to the eavesdropping law that the ACLU wants is for the police. I’m sure they’re still dead set against ordinary citizens being listened in on or filmed without consent.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I agree, the police are trying to do their jobs under horrible conditions, however if the conditions aren’t something they can handle without breaking the law, perhaps they are engaged in the wrong line of work, or they need more training, something from what I understand is not offered enough by the department

      As for the exceptions, it could be argued that your average citizen is not paid by taxpayers to stand around and be an average citizen whereas police officers are paid to stand around and be police officers: the expectations could be construed as different.


      1. A lot of times though the police aren’t breaking the law but a partial (deliberately or accidentally so) video can certainly make it look it. That can cost the PD a lot of money in court and damage relations with the public.

        …And, frankly, some “assault” is often warranted in order to keep the peace. Where I’m originally from the PD will often roust and bruise up a thug or young punk as a warning and to run him out of any area rather than arrest him – if they think it’ll work and that he’s worth saving.

  2. Fair enough, then perhaps the police should also be in the videotaping business themselves, running video during arests as defense. I simply can’t get behind it being illegal to videotape the police however. Too many assaults have been caught on tape that never would have been known or believed. Even in something as simple as protests, oftentimes activist video is a deterrent to excess.

    As far as okay assault, versus the “saving” assault. I must disagree. Legally, there is little way to tell the difference and if roughing up to save someone is permitted, I don’t like where that would lead.

    Also, I am not saying the police never have to use violence in their job, of course they do…but the line they are trained to know must be respected regardless of the situation.



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