Every time things begin to be progress in Illinois, they begin to regress.
Earlier this year, we saw several victories in overcoming the state’s Draconian wiretapping law, which makes it illegal for citizens to record cops in public without their consent, even though cops have the right to record citizens without their consent.
But last week, we had two setbacks, including an incident where Chicago police detained a pair of journalists at the request of hospital security guards, telling the journalists that their “First Amendment rights can be terminated.”
That incident prompted Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, to fire off a letter to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
The second setback was when legislators voted down a bill that would have legalized the recording of cops in public without their consent, which would have brought Illinois in par with the 49 other states.
Massachusetts, which has the second harshest wiretapping law, makes it a crime to secretly record cops in public without their consent. All the other states allow citizens to record cops in public because they do not have an expectation of privacy.
Of course, those laws never stop cops from arresting people as we’ve recently seen in Florida in the case of Steve Horrigan.
The Illinois bill, introduced by Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz, was mostly voted down by republicans. And for the most absurd reasons.
According to the State Journal- Register:
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.
Rebeletti proved his ignorance of the law by assuming that cops can’t record citizens, not realizing there is an exception in the law that allows cops to record citizens without their permission.
But even though Nekritz’s bill failed to pass, there is still ACLU vs Alvarez, the pending appeal that could determine the wiretapping law unconstitutional.
But if it goes another month without a final decision, Chicago police might find themselves in a bind when thousands of protesters and hundreds of journalists descend on the Windy City for the NATO meetings beginning May 20, virtually all of them with cameras.
City officials recently denied a permit that would have allowed protesters to legally march through city streets, citing a lack of police manpower.
So it’s obvious they really do believe First Amendment rights can be terminated.
UPDATE: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said late Monday that he will not allow police to arrest journalists during the NATO meetings next month, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
However, he made no mention on whether he believes any of the thousands of protesters expected to descend upon the city should be arrested for recording cops.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
You can also contribute to my Legal Defense Fund by purchasing a photographer rights lens cloth and/or laminated card to wear around your neck like a press badge through Zap Rag.Please write “carlos3” in the comments section of the Paypal transaction to ensure I receive a portion of the sale.