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Quinn wants review of ACLU bias claims against state police

Wednesday, Jun 15, 2011

* Earlier this month, the Illinois ACLU asked the US Justice Department to investigate “the substantial racial disparate impact cause by consent searches conducted by Illinois State Police troopers of Hispanic and African American motorists.” The ACLU took a look at available data and concluded

Data demonstrates that almost all motorists – between 94% and 99% — consent to a search when asked by an ISP trooper, suggesting that the coercive nature of the encounter renders the “consent” not truly voluntary. […]

…Hispanic and African American motorists are far more likely than white motorists to be subjected to consent searches by ISP troopers. Hispanic motorists were 2.7 to 4.0 times more likely to be consent searches (in the years between 2004 and 2009), and African Americans motorists were 1.8 to 3.2 times more likely. Remarkably, white motorists who consent to searches by ISP troopers are far more likely to have contraband than compared to Hispanic and African American motorists. [Emphasis added.]

Keep in mind that this is about “consent” searches, not searches based on reasonable cause. Those searches can be done without the driver’s consent.

* From the Tribune

“These [consent] searches are carried out on a hunch, and it’s clear the Illinois State Police have hunches more frequently with black or brown drivers, and that those hunches turn out to be wrong more frequently for black and brown drivers,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois.

Grossman said the group decided to ask the Department of Justice to intervene because it would be quicker than a court case, and because the agency’s civil rights division has taken an active role under Obama.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency says it will review the complaint.

* The AP adds

The ACLU’s figures show only 177 state police consent searches produced any contraband, and more than half of it came from white drivers. Mostly what troopers found was alcohol and drug paraphernalia. They found weapons only 14 times and more than 50 grams of drugs only eight times.

* The State Police say other police agencies are worse

“Consent searches are a tool recognized and authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court,” department spokesman Scott Compton said in a statement. “In 2009, ISP requested consent from 2 out of every 1,000 motorists stopped. This statistic demonstrates that troopers … are not abusing the use of consent searches.”

He said state police were less likely than other departments to seek permission to search minority drivers. Overall, 2 percent of minority drivers were asked to allow a search during traffic stops in 2009, but among stops by the state police the figure was only 0.4 percent, down from 1.35 percent in 2005.

* But now the governor is stepping in and wants a review

Gov. Pat Quinn has asked the head of the Illinois State Police to review allegations of racial bias in the department’s handling of searches during traffic stops.

* In other police-related news, Illinois’ extremely harsh eavesdropping law is racking up more outrageous felony charges against alleged violators, including Michael Allison

This Robinson, Ill., man is facing four counts of violating the eavesdropping law for the recordings he made of police officers and a judge. Allison was suing the city to challenge a local zoning ordinance that prevented him from enjoying his hobby fixing up old cars: The municipal government was seizing his cars from his property and forcing him to pay to have them returned. Allison believed the local police were harassing him in retaliation for his lawsuit, so he began to record his conversations with them.

When Allison was eventually charged with violating the zoning ordinance, he asked for a court reporter to ensure there would be a record of his trial. He was told that misdemeanor charges didn’t entitle him to a court reporter. So Allison told court officials he’d be recording his trial with a digital recorder.

When Allison walked into the courtroom the day of his trial, the judge had him arrested for allegedly violating her right to privacy. Police then confiscated Allison’s digital recorder, where they also found the recordings he’d made of his conversations with cops.

Allison has no prior criminal record. If convicted, he faces up to 75 years in prison.

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - One of the 35 - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 9:42 am:

    Could it be that 94% to 99% of those stopped have nothing to hide and therefore consent to voluntary search? The data does not necessarily “suggest” that the consent is not truly voluntary.

  2. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 9:55 am:

    How does one get out of a request for a ‘voluntary search’ without seeming like you are hiding something?

  3. - MrJM - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:02 am:

    “Mind if I take a look in the trunk?”


    “Then I guess you won’t mind waiting for the drug-sniffing dog.”


    – MrJM

  4. - Leave a light on George - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:11 am:

    =How does one get out of a request for a ‘voluntary search’ without seeming like you are hiding something?=

    Just say no.

  5. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:12 am:

    A pity that more people aren’t talking about this. If there’s any state where public officials ranging from police to judges need to be held more accountable, through recording or any other means, it’s this one.

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:17 am:

    The eavesdropping law is beyond Kafka, or maybe it’s Orwell or Heller.

    How can judges and police officers have an expectation of “privacy” in performing their public duties?

  7. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:18 am:

    The eavesdropping law is outrageous, and should be repealed. Law Enforcement personnel who are doing their jobs have nothing to fear from the public with whom they are interacting from a recording that has been made of that interaction. And a potential 75 year prison term…for 4 recordings? Is there a murder charge in there that I’m missing?

  8. - Palatine - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:21 am:

    Illinois’ extremely harsh eavesdropping law is racking up more outrageous felony charges against alleged violators. Repeal it now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. - wishbone - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:26 am:

    I just wish 99% of the public would say no to unwarranted searches.

    Your lead in to the eavesdropping story should be “In other police-state related news, Illinois’ extremely harsh eavesdropping law…”

  10. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:29 am:

    Wordslinger, judges and police officers don’t have an expectation of privacy when performing public duties. Illinois laws are ludicrous and worse is the way they’re enforced.

  11. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:33 am:

    Rich, do you (or anyone else) have any info on who sponsered the bill, and what the rationale was for it? I’m just stunned that it’s out there.

  12. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:33 am:

    As a firm supporter of rigorous law enforcement and police officers, I can’t see how the “eavesdropping” law helps law enforcement in any way. There is a balance between allowing cops to do their assigned jobs, and an individual’s 4th and 5th amendment rights. This law seems to put a finger on the scales of justice, with no obvious benefits.

  13. - Justice - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:35 am:

    If an officer asks to search your car, simply say “no.”

    Honestly folks, we are in a free society and the fact that a police officer wants to search your vehicle, without reasonable or probable cause, is nuts. All of us need to stand firm on our rights.

    Just because the percentages are high for people allowing searches, says nothing.

    As to the Judge and the violation of her right to privacy….I say she should be the one facing charges. She is a public employee in a public place, having been given notice that they were being recorded. Good grief. Are we moving to a police state? Talk about twisting the law.

  14. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:36 am:

    ===have any info on who sponsered the bill===

    Which bill?

  15. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:37 am:

    Oh sorry the eavesdropping bill.

  16. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:37 am:

    Where is the ACLU on Mike Allison’s case? He asked for a court reporter and was refused. He notified the court he was going to record and they didn’t say he could not … then they arrested him when he did. Would the court have done the same thing if he showed up with a court reporter paid for at his own expense? Did the court suggest such an action?

    Sounds like a blatant case of entrapment by the court where they allowed an “illegal” action they could have prevented in order to further harass a person the system was already harassing.

  17. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:38 am:

    Here’s the eavesdropping act:

  18. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:43 am:

    And it was part of 96‑1464

  19. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:58 am:

    The ACLU has its own agenda, so hoping for them to do the right thing is a hit or miss affair.

    The eavesdropping laws in IL as well as other states gives the government unprecedented power. Not a good thing. Anything happening in a courtroom should available for recording. After all it is supposed to be a matter of record.

    I wonder how this crock of a law got passed?

  20. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 10:58 am:

    The Complaint:

  21. - FDR - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 11:02 am:

    The eavesdropping act needs to be repealed!

  22. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 11:05 am:

    The Bill:

  23. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 11:07 am:

    Passed unanimously in both houses

  24. - TwoFeetThick - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 11:27 am:

    The Eavesdropping Law has been on the books for a long time. The paper version of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which contain much more historical information than is found in the online version, date the law to 1961 (though, further research may date it even earlier than that). The reason issues like these arise is because the law has not been adequately updated to reflect changes in technology that have occurred over time, not because the GA is making some recent attempt at creating a police state.

    PA96-970 that you link to, Cincinnatus, added exemptions to the law, not additional penalties being used to prosecute Mr. Allison. True, the police usually oppose making changes that would exempt situations like this. They don’t want a camera stuck in their face as they try to do their job anymore than anyone else does when they try to do their jobs. Obviously, the law needs serious revision, but painting this situation as being the result of recent changes by the GA is not accurate.

  25. - TwoFeetThick - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 11:28 am:

    Sorry, PA96-670.

  26. - Downstate Illinois - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 11:30 am:

    How the in the world can a judge in a public courtroom have her privacy invaded by a recording of what she says.

  27. - Leave a light on George - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 12:50 pm:

    In Illinois, BOTH parties must consent to the AUDIO recording of a conversation, with some exception noted in the statute. Just like our overly restrictive gun control measures we as a state are in the minority. The cop has a right by statute to not consent just like the citizen.

  28. - Quinn T. Sential - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 1:38 pm:

    Time for another Blue Ribbon Commission to spend endless hours and dollars putting on a show.

    Are the Democrats going to have Abner Mikva stuffed and preserved when he is no longer with us, so that they can continue to roll him out for just such occasions?

    After all; he did such a fine job getting to the bottom of the U of I admissions scandal.

  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 2:40 pm:

    “We aren’t as biased as other law enforcement agencies” isn’t exactly a great defense.

  30. - WUSTL - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 8:27 pm:

    So technically, if you are pulled over and the police car has a video recorder with a microphone, would that not be eavesdropping on my conversation with the officer since I haven’t given my consent for the recording to occur?

  31. - WUSTL - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 8:30 pm:

    Never mind, had I read the link Cincinnatus posted, I would have had my answer.

  32. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 9:34 pm:

    Does the Illinois eavesdropping law have anything to do with the fact that conversations recorded by one without the consent or knowledge of other parties are illegal, so they can’t be entered into evidence in court?

    Say, like, recording a public official without knowledge or consent?

  33. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 15, 11 @ 9:38 pm:

    We have a winner.

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