The New York Times reports on the Illinois eavesdropping law, which allows for a felony charge and up to 15 years of prison for people who record police officers on the job. In addition to artist Christopher Drew—whom I’ve written about before and who goes to trial in April—the article finds another person currently being charged under the law. Tiawanda Moore, 20, goes to trial next month. She too could face 15 years in prison, in her case for using her Blackberry to record her conversation with internal affairs officers at Chicago PD about an alleged sexual assault by a police officer. Moore recorded her interview after feeling her initial attempt to report the incident wasn’t taken seriously.
On Aug. 18, Ms. Moore and her boyfriend went to Police Headquarters to file a complaint with Internal Affairs about the officer who had talked to her alone. Ms. Moore said the officer had fondled her and left his personal telephone number, which she handed over to the investigators.
Ms. Moore said the investigators tried to talk her out of filing a complaint, saying the officer had a good record and that they could “guarantee” that he would not bother her again.
“They keep giving her the run-around, basically trying to discourage her from making a report,” Mr. Johnson said. “Finally, she decides to record them on her cellphone to show how they’re not helping her.”
The investigators discovered that she was recording them and she was arrested and charged with two counts of eavesdropping, Mr. Johnson said. But he added that the law contains a crucial exception. If citizens have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is about to be committed against them, they may obtain evidence by recording it.
“I contend that the Internal Affairs investigators were committing the crime of official misconduct in preventing her from filing a complaint,” Mr. Johnson said. “She’s young. She had no idea what she was getting into when she went in there to make a simple complaint. It’s just a shame when the people watching the cops aren’t up to it.”
Days later, accompanied by Mr. Johnson, Ms. Moore returned to Internal Affairs and was able to file a full complaint. There is a continuing investigation of Ms. Moore’s charges against the officer, a Police Department spokesman said.
So five months later, they’re still investigating a possible sexual assault by a police officer. But they had no problem immediately arresting, charging, and jailing the woman who tried to report it. That would seem to send a pretty clear message about how seriously the city takes police misconduct.
There was another story in the news this week involving Chicago police. Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for lying under oath. Burge was part of a Chicago police culture that tortured suspects in police custody for more than a decade. Burge and other officers who participated in the torture couldn’t be prosecuted for federal criminal civil rights violations because the statute of limitations has expired. The federal judge who sentenced Burge specifically criticized local officials for allowing the torture to continue long past the time they should have known about it, including Mayor Richard Daly for ignoring the problem during his time as a state’s attorney.
You’d think current Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez might take the time to learn something from history. There are still plenty of problems at Chicago PD that her office could be investigating. Instead, she wastes taxpayer resources prosecuting citizens for trying to protect themselves from cops, or for trying to hold cops accountable. Or, for that matter, trying to keep prosecutors accountable. Alvarez is also the one who has been harassing the journalism students at Northwestern University’s Innocence Project.