In Illinois it’s illegal to record a police officer acting in the line of duty even though they can record you. According to Adam Schwartz with the American Civil Liberties Union, “It’s an unfair and destructive double standard.” In an effort to prove that the ACLU filed suit in federal court to challenge that law.
The Illinois Eavesdropping Act makes it a crime to record any conversation without consent from everyone present. The ACLU states the act violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that people should be able to record (especially police) while acting in the line of duty.
Many people have had or heard about negative experiences with law enforcement. This distrust of law enforcement paired with the increase in cell phones equipped with video cameras has led to n increasing number of people recording their own and other people’s interactions with the police.
Case in point: According to the Chicago Tribune, a car load of people were confronted by officers in a McDonald’s parking lot. One 23 year old passenger began recording the encounter with his phone because he was slightly “suspicious” of the officer. When the cops realized what he was doing, the man was cuffed and placed into the patrol car.
Too many acts of police brutality and misconduct have been caught on camera for this Illinois law to stay on the books. Because the police are public servants, paid by taxpayers, their accountability should be monitored by the public. And if this includes recording interactions, I don’t see how that should be criminal.
Had the act of recording been paired with another criminal act, like impeding an investigation, criminal charges might have been relevant. But for the recording itself to be considered a criminal act seems to be over the top.
Similar laws exist in Massachusetts and Oregon, making only three total who ban recordings of public conversations in public places where there is no expectation of privacy and the conversation is audible by the average person. The fact that there is no expectation of privacy and the conversation is at such a volume that it can be heard by anyone seems to only support the notion that the ban is irrational if not Unconstitutional.
Not trusting the police is an all too common occurrence. This is unfortunate as the vast majority of law enforcement officers are ethical. But that doesn’t mean that they should be allowed this special status and exception to our first amendment protections.