With eavesdropping law gone, body cameras for police officers brought up

By Jim McCabe on March 25 at 2:48pm

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Last week’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling that struck down a decades-old eavesdropping law could have an effect on a push for local police officers to wear body cameras.

Jacksonville Alderman Adonnis Shaw supported that idea when it was brought up at a City Council meeting last November, and he brought the topic up last night with city police chief Tony Grootens, asking if he’d support testing a camera system now that the eavesdropping law has been declared unconstitutional.

Grootens responded positively, indicating he’s for getting the cameras once state legislators re-write the law.

“We will look into that as a possibility. If it restricts certain parties such as law enforcement, then it won’t really have any effect on whether or not we have body cameras because, as I always said, if we can’t record the conversation, then the body cameras do us no good,” Grootens explains. “We have to be able to have the voice along with the video recorder to do us any good.”

With the law being struck down, there are no current recording restrictions in public settings in Illinois. Grootens hopes local lawmakers will draft a “one-party consent” law. He says that’ll provide more incentive to install body cameras.

“I’m hoping that they do something like what the federal government is. Missouri is that way; it works rather well,” says Grootens. “It’s hardly fair that the legislators will allow the citizens of the community to tape-record and video-record police officers, but yet police officers can’t tape-record or video-record the citizens in a public setting.”

Grootens believes legislators will compromise and have “one-party consent” in public but “two-party consent” in private setting such as a home.

“There’s going to be a push-back from the citizens in the community. They’re not going to like police officers coming into their home and recording everything that’s going on, and quite frankly, I don’t blame them,” he says.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the issue during the spring session.

Grootens says testing and evaluation would need to be done with any camera system to make sure it’s compatible with the cameras in police cars.