CHICAGO, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in Illinois, seeking to end what it says are prosecutions for recording public conversations with police.
In its suit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Chicago, the ACLU argues individuals may record police as they perform their duties in a public place and speak loud enough to be heard by the unassisted human ear, the organization said in a release.
The ACLU said the case was important because the state's eavesdropping law is used to arrest and prosecute people wanting to monitor police activity. As an example, the organization cited an incident in Champaign several years ago when community activists trying to document police practices in predominantly African-American neighborhoods were charged with violating the Illinois eavesdropping law when they filmed and recorded police interactions with citizens in the public view.
Under Illinois' eavesdropping law, it is a crime to record certain non-private conversations, the ACLU said, noting that the law criminalizes civilians who audio-record police, but allows police to audio-record civilians during traffic stops and other situations.
"There is a lot of talk about the need for more transparency in government; we should demand that transparency from the police," Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, said in the release. "Organizations and individuals should not be threatened with prosecution and jail time simply for monitoring the activities of police in public, having conversations in a public place at normal volume of conversation."
The ACLU's lawsuit claims the state law infringes on the First Amendment right to gather information about the police, share the information with the public, and use such information in a grievance or policy changes.
Among other things, the ACLU seeks an injunction against the application of Illinois' eavesdropping law.