Eavesdrop law takes hit

Eavesdrop law takes hit

There's no escaping public scrutiny in public.

The state law that makes it illegal for citizens to record their interactions with police officers is on its death bed.

It was just a couple of months ago that state Rep. Elaine Kekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, introduced legislation to repeal the law that makes such recordings a felony for which citizens can be sent to prison.

Last week, the eavesdropping law came under attack again when a Cook County judge declared the law unconstitutional, a decision that may force the Illinois Supreme Court to review the statute's validity.

"A statute intended to prevent unwarranted intrusions into a citizen's privacy cannot be used as a shield for public officials who cannot assert a comparable right of privacy in their public duties," wrote Circuit Judge David Frankland. That makes perfect sense.

How can public officials carrying out their public duties in public assert legal protection from having their words and actions videotaped?

The claim is utterly foolish, but hardly the first time that statutes have been twisted to achieve an unintended legislative goal.

It's understandable that police officers don't like being recorded. They, not without foundation, interpret it as an effort by some to document wrongdoing on their part.

But making arrests for these kind of violations only undermines the moral and legal authority they possess. How much better to display impressive professionalism by carrying out their duties to perfection.

But however police react to this new scrutiny, the undeniable reality is that, in a democratic society, they're going to have to live with it.

One way or another — through legislative action or judicial review — this law will not survive. Legislators would be wise to repeal it. If they don't have the stomach to alienate their supporters in law enforcement, the courts ultimately will do the job for them.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 05, 2012 at 7:03 pm

"Public officials" includes other individuals than just the police.  It is quite a comprehensive definition.  Even judges are "public officials".  The public just cannot run around with a video camera recording public officials.  It would be chaotic in a state like Illinois.