Eavesdropping bill stalls


SPRINGFIELD -- Efforts to change Illinois’ eavesdropping statute seem to have stalled in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1808’s chief sponsor, Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, wants to include a provision that would allow police officers to make audio recordings of citizens in public places. The proposal currently allows only members of the public to record officers.

“We don’t want an unfettered ability for law enforcement to record our citizens, but if they have probable cause … to approach somebody on the street,” Noland said. “If you’re approaching someone on the street with a video camera, there’s notice that the whole world is watching. When the whole world is watching, people tend to behave better.”

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and other supporters opposed police recordings when the idea was suggested by law enforcement groups.

Noland’s suggestion also might be unconstitutional, said Josh Sharp, director of governmental relations for the Illinois Press Association. Sharp referred to Article 1, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution, which states that people have the right to be protected against “invasions of privacy or interceptions of communications by eavesdropping devices or other means.”

“That makes it clear to me that police can’t have unlimited surveillance power,” Sharp said. “If we were to pass that bill (with Noland’s changes), it would be found unconstitutional.”

Noland said he will not give up sponsorship of the bill, nor does he plan to attempt to pass it, effectively killing the measure. Noland said he plans to introduce legislation that would include both provisions of SB1808 and his own ideas.

Sharp said he is pursuing “other avenues” with the Senate Democratic leadership in an effort to persuade Noland to release the bill.

David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.