Don’t believe Christen Craig: it is NOT illegal to videotape police in the course of their duties
ILLINOIS—It came to our attention yesterday that the lovely but apparently not-too-bright Christen Craig of Channel 3 news has come up with a presentation for her media outlet that reflects the big popular notion traveling the innerwebs these days that it’s illegal to videotape a police officer in the execution of his duties in the state of Illinois.
We’d like to note at this point that it is not—repeat, is NOT—currently illegal to videotape a police officer in the execution of his duties in the state of Illinois.
Apparently Ms. Craig is buying into (and in turn submitting others to her purchase) of the most recent round of BS blogs who are fomenting the notion that somehow, without legislation to support it, our state (as well as a handful of others) have made it illegal to pick up a cell phone or digital device and hit ‘record’ when they observe something going on involving cops. This would apply as evenly to videotaping a batch of troopers at work at a wreck as it would to a city cop with an overblown ego beating a restrained suspect.
There are two factors driving this misinformation.
One is a case in Chicago involving a street artist named Christopher Drew, who was being harassed by police regularly and opted during one harassing incident to cell-phone-video/audio record that harassment. Read about it here:
The second is the fact that plenty of people are taping police brutality then uploading it to YouTube. This, of course, causes grief and consternation on the part of bad law enforcement everywhere (remember, not all cops are bad, as was shown in the case of those who pursued Raymond Martin to the demise of his LE career) because their reprehensible behavior can be SHOWN to the world, with very little margin for tampering.
What Drew got in trouble for, however, wasn’t the videotaping….it was the audio portion of the videotaping, and when he attempted to use that audio in his defense, the court went after him, and arguably properly so, under Illinois’ archaic eavesdropping law. Here’s a link to this, which, like other ridiculous laws found in only a few states who haven’t gotten with the times, is a felony charge:
The cops in Chicago who were videotaped, as well as other opportunistic public officials who would like the public silenced as much as possible, are behind pushing the notion that a person can’t whip out a cell phone and begin recording a cop in the line of duty. Read this very carefully: NO SUCH LAW EXISTS addressing this issue. With the input from our corrupt ‘leaders’ in our legislature, it could very well soon be. But for right now, it doesn’t.
Here’s where the difference lies: Illinois’ eavesdropping law addresses a covert move, done without the consent of the other person(s). It addresses audiotaping or any device that does that kind of overhear. Yes, a cell phone can audiotape, while it’s in someone’s pocket on videotape. But that’s covert. Whipping up a cell phone to record, with a red light blinking toward the person being recorded, is overt. It is an action taken that can’t be mistaken for any other action. If a person observes themselves being recorded, he can tell the person to stop recording, and if the recorder doesn’t, the recordee can leave the area where the person is recording them, or report that person to the authorities.
If it’s a cop, they ARE the authorities. If they tell the person to stop recording, that person has the option to stop or to continue. If the person continues, the cop can confiscate the phone and arrest the person for disobeying. Of course, there really isn’t any grounds to STOP recording, so the best case scenario would be to let it all shake out in court, which would be the next step. Hopefully the court will uphold the Constitution in that we have freedom of speech and expression in this country, and that if a person wants to videotape a PUBLIC OFFICIAL in the line of performing a PUBLIC DUTY paid for by PUBLIC DOLLARS (YOUR TAX MONEY) he or she can do so.
It’s shameful that there are a host of web bloggers and apparently dingy media types who are forwarding the notion that somehow, there’s a law in this state that videotaping a law enforcement official can’t be done. Any media that does so plays into the daily, inexorable eroding of our Constitution-based freedoms that KEEP us free from the oppression of tyranny and a government telling us what to do, how to do it, when and where and why.
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