It’s now OK for police to eavesdrop on citizens they say are suspected of committing drug-related crimes. If police are involved in an undercover drug investigation, they no longer have to seek a court order to secretly record the suspects. All they need to do now is get a verbal OK from the county prosecutor.
The law, police say, will allow them to move more quickly in making drug-related arrests and they’ll now have more evidence to use during a trial.
While we don’t necessarily have a problem with police gathering as much evidence as they can by recording suspects, we do have a problem with the fact that police and private citizens are now operating under a separate set of rules.
Try to record a police officer who is performing in his public capacity in a public place – say making an arrest on the street – and the person holding the camera can now be arrested and charged with a felony.
Legislation introduced this year to allow recording police in public stalled downstate. With the passage of the police eavesdropping law, that legislation may be resurrected this fall. We hope that it will be.
What we’d really like to see, however, is a wholesale look at Illinois’ law regarding recording conversations between people. Illinois is just one of a dozen states in the nation that still requires all parties to a conversation to agree to be recorded. Doing so without another party’s consent is criminal in Illinois.
History clearly has shown that private citizens aren’t the only ones in the state of Illinois who might be suspected of committing a criminal act. Yet, there are several exemptions for law enforcement with respect to videotaping and otherwise recording the statements of private citizens without those citizens necessarily knowing it.
The flip side of that coin should also be considered.