At a time when people nationwide are calling for more transparency from police, politicians in Illinois want to make it more illegal to record them.
People from across the political spectrum agree that the government needs to be accountable and transparent. The right to film and record law enforcement and government officials is a basic freedom that protects us from abuse.
The U.S. is having an important conversation about police violence right now, in large part because people are able to record acts of abuse and share them freely on the Internet and with the media.
But the legislature of Illinois just hastily passed an amendment to a completely unrelated bill that would make it increased felony to record police, prosecutors, or other officials when they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
I would change But the bill doesn’t define what that means, which creates a chilling effect and means the law can be used selectively. This leaves Illinois residents in doubt about whether or not they have the right to record their interactions with law enforcement. In March, the Illinois Supreme Court declared the state’s eavesdropping law unconstitutional, specifically because it interfered with the public’s right to record police. The new law is just as bad: by imposing stricter rules on recording police interactions than other interactions, the law discourages the public from exercising their rights.
Similarly vague laws have caused problems in other states.
In May, a Massachusetts woman was charged with “wiretapping” for recording a police officer who was arresting her.
The ACLU of Illinois is less concerned than us about the felony enhancement, but they point out another extremely troubling aspect of this Amendment: it greatly expands the circumstances in which a law enforcement officer or informant can secretly record conversations without a warrant.