Tiwanda Moore filed a report with the Chicago police department that she had been sexually harassed by an officer. When to police internal affairs officers came to investigate her claims, she felt they were trying to scare her into changing her report and dropping the allegations—so she recorded them. She was then charged with a felony for the recording and faced up to 15 years in prison.
This week Moore was acquitted by a jury. “The two cops came across as intimidating and insensitive,” according to one juror. “Everybody thought it was just a waste of time and that (Moore) never should have been charged.”
But she was. And another Chicagoan faces similar charges. Illinois is one of a few different states that makes it illegal to record public conversations unless everyone involved is aware of the recording. In most states, courts have ruled that citizens have done nothing wrong if the conversation is in public and could be heard by people passing by.
The Illinoi eavesdropping law has significantly higher penalties when one of the parties is law enforcement.
There is an exception in the eavesdropping law, an exception that saved Moore from prison. It allows for recordings when there is “reasonable suspicion” that a crime may be committed. Her attorney argued that the internal affairs officers were “dragging their feet” on the harassment investigation. Not handling a citizen complaint properly could be considered official misconduct, which is a criminal charge.
In the recording, the jury heard the officers telling Moore that she was wasting her time, that it was her word against the other officer’s. They also said that she would likely not have any additional problems with the officer if she dropped the complaint.
Moore went forward with her complaint, which is still under investigation. No charges were brought against the intimidating officers and one has actually been promoted since the recording took place.
In the past few years, issues of recording the police have come to the forefront as most people carry a recording device with them. Although the laws vary from state to state, civil liberties groups argue that citizens should be able to record the police when they are acting in an official capacity. After all, they are public servants and nothing they do (while working) should be considered private.
Facing charges for recording the police is quite rare. But it does happen and when it does, the potential penalties are very severe.