Police Superintendent Stands Against Eavesdropping Act
In Chicago, Illinois in 2010, a law was passed that sought to ban the covert recording of police officers on duty. The bill was met with praise from various police officials, and criticism from many citizens. And now, those people who are standing against the eavesdropping law have found themselves a new ally: Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. According to McCarthy, the Eavesdropping Act is detrimental to citizens and everyday people who only want a bit of certified protection from those rare officers who bend the law.
Meanwhile, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has continued to support the bill as well as what she feels is her right to prosecute civilians for the crime. The crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under the law. Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner also rushed to defend the law an American Civil Liberties Union challenge requested an injunction against Alvarez, warning that rescinding the law would open the door for gang members and “snooping” reporters and bloggers to violate cops’ privacy.
The Eavesdropping Act states that recording police officers without their informed consent is a Class 1 felony. However, the application of this law has varied in consistency, especially in cases where covert recording has captured a cop doing something wrong. For example, there was a recent case in which a young woman, who were trying to dissuade her from filing an official complaint after she was sexually harassed by an on-duty police officer. In the court case that followed, the jury found her not guilty and called the case “a waste of time.”
However, a new bill currently in circulation is looking to overturn the current Eavesdropping Act, and McCarthy said in a panel at Loyola University last Wednesday that he’s behind it.
“As far as the use of videotape, I certainly endorse it, for the protection of the police as well as [civilians],” he said at the panel. “There’s no argument when you show videotape and can look at what happened. I actually am a person who endorses video and audio recording.”
McCarthy, who came to Chicago from New York, said video and audio recordings helped prove officers acted appropriately amid allegations of brutality following a series of protest arrests. He added that this material could be equally useful as police prepare for massive crowds of protesters when Chicago hosts the NATO/G8 summits this spring. McCarthy clarified that it’s not his job to advocate for policy changes, according to CBS Chicago, but called objections to covert recordings of police interactions a “foreign concept” after finding the practice helpful during previous stints in other cities.
Eavesdropping Act opponents echo McCarthy’s surprise that it remains on the books in Illinois–the only state to require both parties consent to a recording before it begins.
“It is unique in the nation,” Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reports Committee for Freedom of the Press who sat on the same panel, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Dalglishexpressed support for a pending ACLU challenge of the law’s constitutionality in federal court, after a downstate Illinois judge ruled the law unconstitutional recently.