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House Shoots Down Bill To Allow Recording Of Police Officers

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Illinois House Floor

House floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. (AP File Photo)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois lawmakers have defeated a measure to allow private citizens to make audio recordings of police officers on the job.

State law already allows video recordings without sound, but the measure would have allowed citizens to make audio recordings of police in public spaces.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who sponsored the measure, said it’s a citizen’s First Amendment right to make such recordings.

“A public official performing public duties on public property really has no expectation of privacy,” Nekritz said. “Citizens who would engage in this kind of behavior are, in fact, exercising their protected First Amendment rights.”

But State Rep. Dena Carli (D-Chicago), a Chicago Police sergeant, doesn’t see it that way.

“Citizens distracting these officers, even more than they could possibly be distracted in the situations that they’re in, would be such a harm to these officers,” she said.

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Carli said police officers have enough to worry about on the job as it is.

“These recordings could be manipulated. They could be put viral at any point in time, making law enforcement look even worse than sometimes we possibly look. We go out there every day and all the good that we do gets overlooked by one possible shot on YouTube,” she said.

But Nekritz said officers should have nothing to worry about from YouTube if they’re doing their jobs properly.

“For those police officers that are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’re not allowing citizens to interfere with the performance of that duty,” Nekritz said. “We are simply giving them the right to do what, again, what is sort of commonplace today; which is to take out your cell phone when you see something happening and record that.”

Critics said it was unfair that the law would allow citizens to make audio recordings of police, when police cannot make audio recordings of someone without first obtaining a court order.

The measure failed by a 45-59 vote, 15 votes shy of passage.

Currently, Illinois is a “two-party consent” state when it comes to wiretapping, meaning all parties in a conversation must consent to audio recordings of what is said, even in public spaces.

However, a Cook County judge ruled earlier this month that the state’s wiretapping law is unconstitutional, meaning the matter could eventually be decided by the Illinois Supreme Court.

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