There is no privacy in public.
If it's legal for police officers in Illinois to make both audio and video recordings during an encounter with a citizen, why isn't it just as proper for citizens to make a similar recording of the officer?
The simple answer is that Illinois law declares the citizen recording to be illegal, a violation of state eavesdropping law. Violators can be charged with a felony and, incredibly, sent to prison.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, says it's time to change the law, and not just because new technology makes audio and video recording a common practice in today's world.
She asserts that such recordings are not a violation of personal privacy.
"I don't know why a public official on public business on public property has any expectation of privacy," Nekritz said.
Nekritz's legislation, which is co-sponsored by local state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, would exempt from state eavesdropping law the "recording of a peace officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear."
Confrontations between members of the public and police officers over these kinds of recordings are becoming increasingly common, to the point that lawsuits involving the issue are pending in Illinois' state and federal courts.
It's hard — bordering on impossible — not to conclude that eventually the courts are going to strike down this prohibition.
Police officers clearly don't like the practice, and their opposition is understandable, to a degree.
Most of the time, these recordings are made by police critics who are looking for some kind of misconduct by an officer or just enjoy getting under the officer's skin.
Police officers may be uncomfortable with this kind of scrutiny. But if they're doing nothing wrong, all the recording is doing is validating their adherence to the rules.
The authorities have learned over the years that film and audio are their friends.
Audio and video statements of suspect confessions are iron-clad proof in court.
But however police and prosecutors feel about this kind of new witnessing, it's time for the law to embrace modernity. The restrictive rules now in place cannot survive long. The sooner the law is changed, the quicker all the parties can get used to this new check on the possible abuse of authority.