Recording cops back in picture
Sometimes, running from responsibility can be a winning strategy.
Illinois legislators have long adhered to the philosophy that if an issue is ignored long enough it will disappear on its own.
That approach has utterly failed with respect to the state's crippling budget woes. But it's another story altogether regarding the nasty controversy involving individuals who record interactions between police and citizens in violation of state law.
The law is not just stupid, but unconstitutional. Despite that, legislators — bowing to pressure by police organizations — have resisted calls to repeal it.
No matter — the courts have bailed our elected officials out of having to deal with this contentious issue.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower-court decision striking down the Illinois law. It remains on the books but is unenforceable.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez had asked the high court to review a May decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The appellate court had ruled that the Illinois law that bars the recording of public officials engaged in public duties in public violates the First Amendment.
The law, enacted in 1961, bars the recording of a conversation unless all the parties agree to it. At the time it was passed, the law was aimed at those who surreptitiously record telephone conversations. Violators can be incarcerated for up to 15 years.
Law enforcement officials unwisely tried to use that law as a shield against groups and individuals who seek to videotape police misconduct.
Their feelings are understandable. But all they have to do is perform their jobs in a professional manner and there's no problem.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz tried unsuccessfully this past summer to persuade legislators to repeal the law. Her colleagues ignored her, figuring correctly that the court would bail them out of what they perceived as a tough vote. This is one instance where that see-no-evil approach worked.