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:
Have a nice day.