Record a Cop During a Traffic Stop
by: Tinu Sathya
Eavesdropping in itself is a divisive issue – the secret recording of any person, regardless of their status, raises issues that the American government still struggles to answer. This issue is only complicated more by the involvement of the police force.
Samara Smith, Senate Sponsor, believes that “the main issue of [the] bill is that citizens of Illinois cannot record their police officers, which is a direct violation of their constitutional rights.”
Only twelve states specifically forbid the recording of police, Illinois being one of them, and in these states, residents can be arrested for video or audio recording of a police officer, regardless of what is documented in the file. In Massachusetts, another one of these states, a federal judge ruled this law unconstitutional, yet in Illinois, the rule continues to be implemented.
“This is a big problem given the police brutality and things happening in vulnerable communities–black and brown specifically–and so we wanted to address the issue so that people will be given these rights,” said Smith. She hopes to make the arrest of people who wish to record on-duty police officers illegal on constitutional grounds.
“It’s not really eavesdropping if the police are on duty because they’re representing the community,” Smith explains.
At first, House representative Syd Mark believed that such a bill would be an invasion of privacy. However, after learning that many video documentations of police brutality and other crimes are inadmissible in court and illegal, he replied, “I was unaware of that. Of course that should be legal!”
“Of course police officers who aren’t on duty should not be recorded, because that’s just invasion of privacy,” Smith assures the bill’s detractors. However, he says, “We want police [officers], and even politicians, to be held accountable for their actions.”
Smith’s bill, which offers a new take on the already loaded issues of eavesdropping and wiretapping, links a racially charged issue with a socially divisive one. Addressing police brutality, abuse of power, and other issues that have rattled communities of color, the bill has surged forward through Pre-Leg I and II.
“But we’ll see what happens today,” Smith joked.