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Supreme Court rules cops can be filmed

December 18, 2012

by Russia Today

OG Mehserle sentencing cops face protester in I-am-Oscar-Grant position 110510 by Felix Barrett
Cameras record the massive police crackdown Nov. 5, 2010, on protesters against the light sentence given former BART cop Johannes Mehserle, who murdered Oscar Grant. Lying face down on the ground, as Oscar was forced to do, became a theme through all the demonstrations demanding justice for Oscar Grant. – Photo: Felix Barrett
Smile for the camera, coppers – the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to let stand a lesser ruling that allows citizens in the state of Illinois to record police officers performing their official duties.

Up until just last year, anti-eavesdropping legislation on the books across Illinois meant any person within the state could be imprisoned for as long as 15 years for recording a police officer without expressed consent. In August 2011, a federal appeals court struck down the law, but an Illinois prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court – unsuccessfully – to challenge that ruling.

On Monday, the top justices in the U.S. said that they would not hear the case and will instead rely on last year’s ruling where a federal appeals court in Chicago agreed that the eavesdropping law, as written, “likely violates” the First Amendment.

“The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts a medium of expression commonly used for the preservation and communication of information and ideas, thus triggering First Amendment scrutiny,” and the “statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests,” the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opined previously.

Marcus Bedford recording cops cartoon 0212, web
This cartoon was drawn by Marcus Bedford, K-00220, D-Wing 239L, P.O. Box 689, Soledad CA 93960.
Under that ruling and thanks to the Supreme Court’s refusal to weigh in this week, last year’s decision to not allow the enforcement of that law will stand, essentially making it once and for all perfectly legal at the highest level to tape record cops on the job.

Harvey Grossman, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, says in a statement that the ACLU was “pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to take this appeal.”

“The ACLU of Illinois continues to believe that in order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police,” Grossman says. “The advent and widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish.”

The ACLU says they will now attempt to secure a permanent injunction in the case of Anita Alvarez v. ACLU of Illinois so that state attorneys will be barred from attempting to enforce the eavesdropping law ever again, “so that the ACLU’s program of monitoring police activity in public can move forward in the future without any threat of prosecution.”

This story first appeared on Russia Today.


4 thoughts on “Supreme Court rules cops can be filmed

  1. John Mulligan

    I see no problem recording a public official doing public work in public. That there was even a law against this is simply insane.

  2. Seamus

    We sure do need more cops in Oakland, filming or not. The thugs are on the rise. They mostly kill each other, but that's no reason to let thugs run amok with an understaffed police dept.

  3. PIPER

    The fact that the story was first reported in “Russia Today” tells VOLUMES about the state of our Union. This is one of the most important rulings (or lack thereof) EVER in the USA and no American media even bothered to cover it. But honestly, I think most people would have been shocked to know that filming the police could land them in jail, beaten, with their film (or digital camera, as it were) destroyed. But it’s about time we put accountability on the top of the priority list for our law enforcement. They’ve abused their power for FAR TOO LONG.

  4. Paul Simon

    The has issued an informational video and a press release, to help the media and the general public in the upcoming oral argument at the Illinois Supreme Court hearing in Annabel Melongo’s eavesdropping case. The hearing is scheduled for January 14th, 2014, at the 18th floor of the Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago at 9.30 am.

    Press Release:

    Please support this cause. The Illinois Eavesdropping law at its very core creates a two-class legal system wherein the conversations of the powerful and well-connected are protected to the detriment of the less powerful. The upcoming oral argument presents a unique opportunity for the common citizen to re-establish that legal balance that will unequivocally establish a right to record public officials in their public duties.

    Therefore, please contribute to this all-important hearing by either attending it, writing about it, spreading the word or just forwarding the below video and press release to anybody who might be of any help.


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