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CCRKBA CALLS CHICAGO COPS’ HIDDEN MICROPHONES A CIVIL RIGHTS THREAT

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Disclosure that the Chicago, Ill. Police department has apparently been “experimenting” with tiny microphones in unmarked police cars that can pick up nearby conversations on the street is yet another civil rights slap in the face in a city where law-abiding citizens have already been effectively stripped of their gun rights.

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) today agreed with Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois that there is a genuine concern about Fourth Amendment violations if such conversations would be recorded without warrants.

“In Chicago,” said CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron, “they have already effectively trashed the Second Amendment and apparently figure that since they’ve gotten away with it, they can also trash the Fourth. Even the Chicago Sun Times properly alluded to the ‘Big Brother’ aspect of this equipment.

“If this were strictly monitored and specifically targeted at criminals engaged in criminal activity,” Waldron continued, “then one might see some justification for having these microphones installed. However, the potential for abuse is overwhelming. If the police have already been ‘experimenting’ with these microphones as the newspaper reported, we’re wondering just what kinds of conversations may have already been recorded. We think any such recordings must be made public, and transcripts should be provided to every news agency in the city.”

Waldron said the presence of microphones is a separate issue from the use of surveillance cameras mounted in patrol vehicles. Those cameras clearly were installed for officer safety and liability protection, and are widely used in law enforcement across the country.

“There is a far greater civil rights issue here,” Waldron stated. “But that is probably of no concern to the City of Chicago. This is the sort of thing gun rights activists have long warned about. Once government gets in the habit of trampling one civil right – firearms ownership – then it becomes that much easier to tread elsewhere. It is an insidious habit for any branch of government to nibble away at civil rights, because that kind of an appetite always grows, it never shrinks.”