Illinois Moves to Legalize WHat Already Ought to Be a No-Brainer: Recording Police at Work

Illinoisans would be allowed to make recordings of police officers in public under a bill that an Illinois House committee approved Wednesday.

Existing state law allows the audiotaping of a person only if both parties to the conversation give their consent. Videotaping doesn’t require consent, but only if there is no audio with the video.

The bill, HB 3944, now goes to the full House. It would allow “recording of a peace officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear.”

Most states allow audio recording of conversations with one-party consent — when any participant in a conversation gives consent to record it. A handful of states require consent from both parties to the conversation. Illinois requires consent from all parties to the conversation.

The Illinois law allows video recording with the sound turned off, as well as the audio recording of a distant event where the voices are not audible.

The Illinois law also has an exemption for news broadcasts. But with the Internet and blogs and YouTube, the line between citizens and journalists is blurring. And footage from citizens’ cellphones often ends up on the websites and broadcasts of large news organizations.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t necessarily oppose a change to let people record police activity, but it wants changes of their own, said the group’s lobbyist, Laimutis Nargelenas.