ACLU of Illinois

Know Your Rights: Freedom of expression in Chicago
March 15, 2012

If I think police are acting inappropriately, can I tape them to use later?

The First Amendment protects photography of on-duty police officers in public places.  Federal courts enforced this right, for example, in a case involving photography of police excessive force during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

While audio recording police officers was once illegal in Illinois, the ACLU successfully challenged that law in a lawsuit against the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney. The federal appellate court ruled that the First Amendment protects audio recording of on-duty police in public places. After the ACLU’s lawsuit, the Illinois Supreme Court also struck down the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. The current version of that statute only prohibits audio recording of private conversations, and the conversations of on-duty police in public places are not private.