Forget The Smart Phone; Bring A Smart Stenographer

January 3, 2012

Forget The Smart Phone; Bring A Smart Stenographer
If you’re in Illinois, and you’re recording the police (to monitor possible misconduct), don’t be using your smart phone. No, you’d better hire a stenographer to follow you around at all times…on the off-chance that you encounter some police action that you feel like recording. That’s because of Illinois’ really disgusting “eavesdropping” law. Ryan Haggerty and Jason Meisner write for The Chicago Tribune:

Illinois is one of a handful of states in which it is illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved and has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country.

In August … Tiawanda Moore, 21, was acquitted of illegally recording two Chicago police internal affairs investigators whom she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. One juror later told the Tribune that he and his fellow panelists considered the case “a waste of time.”

The next month, a Crawford County judge ruled the law unconstitutional and dismissed eavesdropping charges against a man accused of recording police and court officials without their consent.

Yet, others — like an artist selling his wares on the street — are facing trial on the same felony charge: eavesdropping on a public official, which could garner him up to 15 years in prison. (The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the ACLU-filed fed suit challenging the law from 2010.)

More from the story:

Illinois’ eavesdropping ban was extended in 1994 to include open and obvious audio recording, even if it takes place on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists and in a volume audible to the “unassisted human ear.”

Kutnick said the law makes no sense today, when so many people carry smartphones capable of shooting video and thousands of public and private surveillance cameras are stationed throughout the city.

“There’s no place for it in today’s sophisticated, technological society,” he said. “Now the first thing anybody does (is) pull out the phone, pull out the recorder. Laws should track what’s happening in the world, and this is a perfect example of where it is not keeping up.”

Officials with the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago have said the union supports the law because it prevents people from making baseless accusations against officers by recording them and then releasing snippets that don’t reveal the full context of the incident.

But Kutnick counters that people should have the right to record public police activity and that officers who perform their duties properly shouldn’t mind the scrutiny.

It is absolutely vital that we have checks on public officials — whether they’re politicians or cops, and recording their on-the-job behavior is an absolutely vital one.

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