SPRINGFIELD -- Months after its initial proposal and just a day after the NATO summit that made the law a national issue, a plan to allow civilians to take video recordings of police officers was approved by the Illinois House.
The proposal would allow civilians to record on-duty police officers in a public place. The House approved it by a 71-45 vote Tuesday, and it will be sent to the Senate for further debate.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and sponsor of the plan, said it merely updates Illinois' outdated eavesdropping law, which bans the recording of police.
But at a time when video cameras come on nearly every new cellphone, Nekritz said she wanted to protect people from being charged for a felony for an act they might think is commonplace.
"This bill simply decriminalizes behavior citizens engage in every day," Nekritz said.
Questions of the state's eavesdropping law have picked up in recent weeks, as a federal appeals court declared the law unconstitutional earlier this month. An injunction was placed blocking enforcement of Illinois' eavesdropping law in cases where someone is recording a police officer.
The issue was raised with the NATO summit in Chicago. Thousands of protesters came to the city, and the potential for clashes with police officers loomed large.
Illinois law already allows civilians to videotape in public places, but audio recording without both parties' consent is a class 1 felony -- which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
A similar proposal by Nekritz was introduced earlier this spring but was shot down in March partly because of concerns altered recordings could be used unfairly to make police officers look bad. The current proposal would send audio recordings that show potential wrongdoing by an officer to the state's attorney for review if they have been intentionally altered.
Opponents like state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican, wanted to see more exceptions in the bill to prevent interference with police work.
"I would be more likely to support the legislation if we had some sort of carve-outs," he said.