Recording Police Officers Controversial

Christopher Drew, an Illinois artist, spent the day selling some of his art patches on the side of the road when a police officer came to arrest him. Drew recorded the interaction with the officer and found himself charged with a Class 1 felony, which carries up to 15 years in prison — one step below attempted murder.

The officer claimed Drew violated the Illinois eavesdropping law which states anyone wanting to record another person must get explicit permission from any and all subjects involved.

This ruling, though, has been overturned and the law has been declared unconstitutional by Cook County judge Stanley J. Sacks.

The law, Sacks said, is too far reaching. In his opinion, Sacks said, a woman recording her child’s soccer game, and, in turn, picking up alternate conversations, would be in violation of the eavesdropping law.

According to, recording police has become increasingly simple because of the constant evolution of technology and while these efforts to record police are met with extreme opposition by law enforcement, the courts are saying otherwise.

In multiple cases including Glik v. Cunniffe and Oregon v. Neff upheld that filming a police officer on duty pertained to matters of public interest and was completely legal.

President Obama’s administration also got involved in a case. In Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department, the defendant, Christopher Sharp recorded a friend being arrested at a horse race. The police confiscated Sharp’s phone, deleted the video and reset the phone so that it only permitted emergency calls.

Sharp sued, but the department said the case was moot since new police were being trained to not inhibit recordings by bystanders.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Office went to bat for Sharp saying he was in the right and that recording police was not only important, but necessary. The federal government sent a letter to the Baltimore Police Department explicitly stating what the U.S. considers constitutional policy.

While the federal government was actively involved, the suit is still pending.


About Sarah Scroggins
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