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Illinois judge: law barring recording police is unconstitutional (arstechnica.com)
257 points by timwiseman on Mar 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

Very related case: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-25/news/ct-met-ea...

"In the recording, which the one juror said was replayed several times in the jury room, Alejo was heard explaining to Moore that she might be wasting her time because it was basically her word against that of the patrol officer. Alejo also said they could 'almost guarantee' that the officer would never bother her again if she dropped the complaint.

"'When we heard that, everyone (on the jury) just shook their head,' juror Adams said in a telephone interview. 'If what those two investigators were doing wasn't criminal, we felt it bordered on criminal, and she had the right to record it.'"

Of course it is.

Now try filing a complaint about the police, but you have to go through the police to do it - good luck with that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8v7lF5ttlQ

No online form, no independent civilian agency, no state or federal oversight - they make you go through them, and you most certainly do not want to do that (warning that video is going to make your blood boil halfway though).

>Now try filing a complaint about the police, but you have to go through the police to do it - good luck with that.

If city police officers intentionally violated one's rights, one can sue the offending officers (and the municipality [1]) in federal court under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. (However, under Supreme Court case law, officers have qualified immunity for honest mistakes.)

>No ... federal oversight - they make you go through them

You can file a complaint with the US Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/polmis.php

It is true that police officers get away with too much misconduct, but it's not true that there is no independent oversight whatsoever.

[1] Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Svcs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978).

under Supreme Court case law, officers have qualified immunity for honest mistakes

And thus, police agencies have incentive to keep their officers ignorant about the rights of the people. If the police are never taught the law, then any "mistake" they make is clearly the result of ignorance rather malicious intent. But if they're properly educated, then they'll be responsible for their own actions.

Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse, ever. What's your point?

Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse, ever. What's your point?

No, and that is my point. Government agents enjoy qualified immunity. They aren't personally responsible for their actions if they can show that they were ignorant of the law.

(and since you weren't aware of this, I think that demonstrates that it's an important point to make)

Continuously stunned by the general acceptance of the public to the right of secrecy of those entrusted with the power of life and death over them. Police should be continuously monitored from the moment they pick up their pistol in the public service until they are off duty.

I'm not too keen on that. They should have some privacy when they aren't interacting with the public. Nobody wants to be taped while they are eating, or discussing things with a colleague. And the more unpleasant it is to be a police officer, the worse officers you'll get.

However, they should monitor themselves (with video) whenever they are interacting with the public. This helps them gather solid evidence. If they "forgot" to turn on the camera, or "lost" the disk, the judge and jury should be asking why.

Absolutely agree. I meant for 'on duty' to imply public interaction. Public servant labor should be as transparent to the public as humanly possible.

And think about it the other way too: A police officer should want to be recorded while on duty and interacting with citizens. No more false accusations of police brutality, etc. The recording doesn't even have to be public - just available at a moment's notice by court order at least.

i have never heard of a better use of crowdsourcing. [ed: grammar]

Class 1 felony charge? Something's wrong with law enforcement in Illinois... or I guess slightly less wrong now. But how does this kind of BS pass muster in the first place.

Two reasons:

1. The proponent of the new law wants the support of the police union, appear to be tough on crime, and point to his support for law and order in the next election. 'Protecting people' -- with a subtext of 'people like you, my campaign donors'.

2. The rest of the legislators are either in on party lines, want to show law-and-order support, or just didn't pay attention. Yes, I'm serious about that last bit.

When was the last time you heard of laws being repealed voluntarily rather than being found unconstitutional? Massachusetts' knife laws read as though the person who wrote them had just been watched a 1970s martial-arts film marathon and called it research. In New York you can sell slingshots that you can't legally possess.

Look at the incentives for legislators: they're not well-aligned with the goals of having a good government, no matter what you think that means. All the incentives are to pass more legislation or to score political points that bear little resemblance to what ordinary rational citizens want.

It's not just Illinois.

  > When was the last time you heard of laws being repealed
For the most part, laws aren't 'repealed' anymore. They just pass a new law that says the old law doesn't count anymore, making the legal code even more obtuse.

On occasion I've idly wondered about what would happen if you started enforcing a relatively strict '1 in, 1 out' policy.

There must be plenty of crap on the books that either is completely outdated, subsumed by other more recent statutes, or could be implemented as an amendment to another item.

Extreme refactoring! (also potentially life imprisonment if you fail a test-case)

That's exactly what a repeal is.

'Protecting people' include protecting people from people abuse. I don't know why the politicians think it's a one-way treatment.

"Everyone has a video camera on them these days, and the last thing we need is honest cops being taken off of the street because some lawsuit happy ambulance chaser thinks they can make a quick buck off of the police department."

To be expected with a political system that rewards pandering.

The same way Bush was elected. Apathy.

surely apathy would result in nobody being elected?

Really? What government in the world allows "nobody" to be elected?

All the ones without elections. They just appoint people instead, which is what you'd eventually be forced to do in an elective society if everybody was apathetic.

Although, if everybody was that apathetic in this fictional society they might not appoint anyone at all and just go and eat some donuts instead.

That's what happened in Iran? China? People just didn't care enough?

I'm trying to understand your perspective of history here. It seems to me despotism more often is the result of fervor and extremism. Whipping the populace up into a frenzy. Apathy is pretty much the opposite of that.

Has there ever been an election where they said "well, voter turnout was extremely low, guess we can just appoint some nutjob instead"?

I only said that total apathy would be a precursor to appointed government in states that would normally be holding elections. Also, not all appointed government figures are despots, there have been some relatively benevolent kingdoms in history, Tuvalu is apparently quite nice.

Widespread political apathy can be a precursor to despotism as it allows a minority to seize and wield power more easily over a majority. This is arguably part of the current situation in modern Russia IMHO.

As for making appointments due to voter apathy, there's the 2003 Serbian presidential election, which was canceled due to voter turnout being extremely low and so the incumbent stayed in, despite not even getting the most votes out of those that were cast;


And here's an example from business;

"The International Game Developers Association has hand-picked five new board members after the process to elect had become void due to low turnout."


I reviewed the Illinois law a while back -- if you even had a security system on private property you were breaking the law. I imagine that a large percentage of Illinois' business were being run by non-convicted felons.

Couldn't have come at a better time, with the G8 and NATO summits taking place in Chicago this summer. Should be a fun time.

There's no expectation of privacy in public area. I thought that has been pretty well established.

There's no expectation of sanity in Illinois. I hate living here.

Haha, but Illinois will set a precedent to lead the rest of the country in this case. Kudos to the judge.

I wish I could agree, but I doubt it. It's a matter of state law for one, and for another,

" In this particular case, however, Judge Sacks seemed to declare Illinois' law unconstitutional not because it's a citizen's right to record interactions between the police and the public, but because the law was too far-reaching. "

i.e. the judge is saying the law is unconstitutional not because the cops should be held accountable, but because it has the potential to criminalize almost any recording made in a public place. The article in the Sun-Times linked says the legislature is trying to fix the root problem, which is good. Pisses me off to see the police unions pushing back, even though it's to be expected.

It's not a precedent. Illinois is the only state in the U.S. with a law this bad. http://www.pixiq.com/article/illinois-judge-latest-to-deem-w...

Didn't the recent ruling on the FBI using gps trackers in cars disagree with that? I'm pretty sure the entire ruling was that despite being in public a person has a reasonable expectation of the privacy of where they are traveling and so to track them would require a warrant.

There is a difference between being in public and being followed. You have no expectation of not being seen while in public, but you do have a reasonable expectation not to be followed everywhere you go, including into presumably non-public (i.e,. privately-owned) properties.

In the GPS case, the use of GPS trackers could include (and frequently did include) "following" a person into private property where the follower would not otherwise have permission to be, i.e.., the doctor's office, lawyer's office, etc.

This sort of story helps restore my confidence in the justice system. Even when stupid (well-meaning, whatever) legislation like this gets passed, it eventually gets challenged and thrown out.

Agreed. However you'll notice the reasoning for the lack of constitutionality was the reach (and the example of capturing side conversations at the soccer game was good) not the intent.

Some original legal theory behind the 'one of the participants is ok with it.' was based on the notion that this person could also testify to it (being a participant). I would really like that reasoning to be re-asserted more widely but that has yet to happen.

Doesn't matter. Given the authoritarian manner the US federal government has been acting lately pretty much guarantees some sort of ban on recording authorities at "international events" will be in effect for Chicago G8 meeting in May. And when the shit inevitably hits the fan they'll just use the revolt as an excuse to implement similar nation-wide bans.

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