The Illinois House killed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed citizens to make audio recordings of police officers in public places.
Video recordings without sound already are legal in Illinois.
“Citizens are unfortunately being charged under this current law for doing nothing more than what we already do every day, which is to take out our cell phone, open up the camera, and start recording,” said the sponsor of House Bill 3944, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook,
The bill failed on a 45-59 vote. As a result, Illinois remains a “two-party consent” state when it comes to wiretapping. This means that everyone in a conversation must give their consent if they are to be recorded . . .
One of the bill’s detractors, Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Freeport, said the bill opens the possibility for citizens to alter audio recordings of interactions with police to make them look bad.
Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, agreed.
“We should not be creating an atmosphere where people enter this ‘got you’ mode and try to tape law enforcement, trying to catch them (doing things),” Watson said.
“Why should (the police) have to go get a court order to record these people when these people can record them?” said Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst.
Nekritz’s bill would apply only to citizens recording police, not the other way around.
Nekritz argued that public officials, including police officers, should not have an expectation of privacy if they are performing public duties in a public place.
Watson and state Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, and Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, all voted against the bill.
See, now this is where it would be nice to see journalists do a little fact checking. Because the politicians are wrong. All the amendment would do is add the expectation of privacy provision back to the state’s two-party consent law and declare that public officials in public spaces have no such expectation. Today, police officers in Illinois today can already record their public interactions with citizens. Many departments do, by requiring officers to wear a microphone. They’d still be allowed to do so under the amendment. The only time police need a “court order” is when they want to tap a phone, bug a home or office, or listen in to some other conversation where the citizen has a reasonable expectation of privacy. You still wouldn’t be allowed to bug a police officer’s home, or his car, or even his office (though you’d be allowed to record any conversations he had with you there in his role as a police officer).
So Rep. Reboletti’s objection is bollocks. So is the fear that citizens will edit audio to make police officers look bad. It isn’t at all difficult to determine if an audio clip has been altered.
As the article points out, at the moment all signs point toward courts overturning the law, so this is likely just a bump in the road. But it shows how difficult it is to get cowardly politicians to impose even a modicum of responsibility on the police. Until the courts intervene, then, in Illinois, a woman who, for example, records Chicago police rebuffing her attempt to report an officer’s alleged sexual assault can still be charged with the same class of crime as the cop would have been if he’d actually raped her.
But here’s some related, better news: Tom Wiseman, the Illinois state’s attorney who prosecuted Michael Allison for recording police and local officials, lost in the Illinois primary on Tuesday. It isn’t clear whether Allison’s case played a role in the election, but it was certainly a high-profile story in Crawford county.