Illinois Republicans Kill Amendment That Would Allow Citizens To Record Police

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Politicians will be politicians.

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.

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20 Responses to “Illinois Republicans Kill Amendment That Would Allow Citizens To Record Police”

  1. #1 |  Dave | 

    I am shocked at this decision by the Republicans.
    No, wait… I”m not.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    it has nothing to do with ‘republicans’- the republican controlled house in New Hampshire held off attempts to make gay marriage illegal… there’s enough bipartisan idiocy that I don’t need to single out the dems or the republicans.

  3. #3 |  Powersox | 

    So, I have a question. What if, instead of recording on your phone, you happened to be on a phone call with someone in a one-party consent state, and that party was recording the audio?
    Even better, what if that other party was a (cheap, confiscate-able) computer that could be set to automatically post the log online?

  4. #4 |  Elwood | 

    I hate Illinois Republicans.

  5. #5 |  DoubleU | 

    It isn’t the republicans vs the democrats, it is the government vs the citizens.

  6. #6 |  Christ on a Cracker | 

    “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.
    This is dumb on so many levels that I can’t come up with a snarky response.

  7. #7 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Citizens “might “alter sound recordings in order make officers look bad. Let me alert you that officers have no need of help looking bad. A “worker”(any) on the public payroll in the performance of their duties can anticipate no privacy while on duty. By accepting the salary from public coffers this should be assumed. It also does NOT extend type of immunity, the law must apply equally to all. The 59 politicians that voted against this have neither a backbone nor a pair of balls between them.

  8. #8 |  Whim | 

    Folks, the GOP does NOT control the Illinois House of Representatives. The very long-term Speaker of the House of Representives is Mr. Madigan, a life-long Democrat. His daughter is the Democrat Attorney General of the dismal state of Illinois, and her father tried to steer Gov. Blago to appoint her to Obama’s U.S. Senate vacancy.

    Whichever partisan is trying to make this into a GOP-initiated action in Illinois to stop this much-needed audio recording legislation is smoking too much weed.

    The GOP cannot stop anything legislatively in the Illinois State Legislature. They are the MINORITY party.

    The legislature is controlled by the Democrat Party.

    Current White House occupant B.H. Obama’s legislative training pants were worn in the Illinois state legislature controlled by the Democrats, and hence he never had to bother to learn to work with the other party.

  9. #9 |  el coronado | 

    Samo Samo. The Party protects its own.

    And for you left-wingers masquerading as freedom-lovers, whining about the evil republicans, kindly note that the Chicago PD has a decades-long rep as one of the most brutal, corrupt, inept, framed-so-many-innocent-men-that-the-*REPUBLICAN*-governor-ended-up-shutting-down-their-death-row bunch of evil jackoffs in the country. Among big cities, I can really only think of one PD that’s worse: New Orleans. (LA, New York & Houston are slightly more subtle, or at least more skilled in hiding their corruption.)

    What party has utterly dominated Chicago (and N’Awlins) politics for all those decades of criminal coppery? Was it the Republicans, idiots?

    If all this is too long or too partisan or gives y’all the vapors, just go back and re-read post #5. Short, sweet, and utterly correct.

  10. #10 |  Andrew_M_Garland | 

    I find it interested that most states are intensely interested in preventing the ordinary person from recording conversations unless all parties agree. They impose large fines and long jail terms. They are not particularly interested in preventing video recordings (without sound), and they aren’t deeply interested in other privacy concerns. I will guess why.

    Recording the misconduct of government officials is the only effective way of proving that they take bribes and sell their offices. The cited law won’t protect you from police investigations where the officer secretly records your conversation. It won’t protect you from wire taps gained with a court’s consent. It will protect your local cop or alderman from being caught for bribes and coercion.

    The law should be changed to allow recordings where at least one person in the conversation has agreed, and all conversations of public officials. People should fear prosecution for graft, coercion, and bribery. Being able to record one’s own conversations (both sides) would prevent much illegal conduct, especially by the state.

  11. #11 |  Kevin Carson | 

    For Illinois “small government” Republicans, apparently, the uniformed and armed functionaries that define government aren’t part of the government. Republicans hate big government but worship uniformed authority. Huh?

  12. #12 |  John | 

    If it wasn’t for bureaucracy they would not have a job. This crap gives then a reason to exist.

  13. #13 |  xysmith | 

    Let’s see:

    118 active members of the Illinois House
    54 Republicans
    64 Democrats

    The vote totals on HB 3944:

    Yea: 29 Dem, 16 Rep
    Nay: 23 Dem, 36 Rep
    Excused: 7 Dem, 2 Rep
    Present: 1 Dem
    Abstain: 3 Dem
    No-vote(NV?): 1 Dem

    I guess you can make a case that it was the Republicans, if only because a greater proportion of the Republican caucus voted nay. But ultimately if the Democrats in the Illinois House wanted this they could have had it.

  14. #14 |  John | 

    But, but…. police endangerment! Or something. Besides, distorting the nature of what really happened is the prerogative of police, not citizens

  15. #15 |  Pi Guy | 

    If _I_ were an IL lawmaker, I’d just go ahead and let everyone video the cops anywhere, anytime. Heck, Put cammeras up everywhere. Tax the people to pay for cameras. “…creates jobs. Someone’s gotta review the footage…” Then… wait for it… *rubs hands together, utters “muah-hah-hah”* … make it legal for, say, any IL State Stormtrooper to beat the ever-living shit out of any citizen at any time for any reason. And I’d for sure be running my re-election campaign on my Tough-on-Crime platform. Starting today.

    Think about it: We’re this close *holds thumb and forefinger of right hand ~3/4″ apart(~2cm, for my Metric-speaking friends)* to police brutality – uh, I mean, using a wee bit more force on We The People than the average Joe’d like to believe is really pretty common. In fact, from a Utilitarian Ethical perspective, the above approach actually makes more sense than outlawing the video stuff. But, alas, there’s that pesky Moral Ethical perspective thingy that keeps popping up in the Constitution: liberty.

    It really must suck to work that hard to get elected to public office and only to find you’re actually constrained by the Constitution and can’t just do anything you want. Wait…

  16. #16 |  Pi Guy | 

    Rat farts! open italics tag somewhere

  17. #17 |  tired dog | 

    Those the same Rs who complain about the Chi-town influence? They’re no better than the Rahm-boy. I have even less desire to visit IL now.

  18. #18 |  Mannie | 

    They say that, in Texas, even the Democrats are Republicans. Well, in Ill Annoy, even the Republicans are Democrats. But pothers above are right. It’s not so much partisan as The Aristocracy against the Serfs.

  19. #19 |  Mannie | 

    That should read others above …

  20. #20 |  freedomfan | 

    I hate to throw a wet blanket on people’s unfortunate tendency to take any chance to criticize the “other” team (and use the bipolar fallacy to conclude from that that their team is okay). The vote count in the IL House for HB3944 does NOT justify any My-Team-Good-Your-Team-Bad interpretation of this. The reality: only 29 of 64 Democrats (45%) voted Yes and only 16 of 54 Republicans (30%) voted Yes. Obviously, Republicans did not support the bill, but to paint this as a partisan issue as if to imply that the Democrats supported it when not even a majority of Democrats voted Yes seems ridiculous. I am really not sure why Radley chose that title for the link.

    There is no reason here to cheer either of the media-approved parties, as usual.

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