A man who entered a Chicago police station Saturday to report that he had been robbed at gunpoint ended up pulling out his phone to start recording when officers refused to take his report.
Police then ordered him to leave, telling him he was not allowed to record inside the building, still refusing to take his report.
But at the time, they had no clue the man was Che “Rhymefest” Smith, an award-winning hip artist and songwriter who once ran for office in Chicago.
And they did not know that Rhymefest has almost 50,000 followers on Twitter, which was where he posted the video of his interaction with Chicago police.
As a result, the Chicago Police Department was quick to apologize for its unprofessionalism.
But the video, uploaded Saturday morning, has already been shared more than 1,600 times as of this writing while the apology from the police spokesman, which he retweeted almost four hours later, has been shared 117 times.
Furthermore, it’s obvious that the only reason they are apologizing is because Rhymefest has a huge following.
They would never apologize to the random Joe Blow ordered to leave the station after trying to file a report because apologizing is acknowledging they were wrong, which is something police rarely do.
Predictably, many commenters on those articles rushed to the defense of police, including one anonymous commenter claiming to be a cop who posted the following on the Chicago Tribune article.
It is this type of attitude that shows exactly why we must record every interaction with police because otherwise, they will always be given the benefit of the doubt by the general public.
In his video, Rhymefest told the cops the following:
“They put a gun to my head. They demanded that I give them my wallet. I gave them my wallet. They told me they were going to shoot me.”
But rather than take his report, they were more worried about him recording, telling him to turn the camera off, which was when he responded with the following.
“I don’t feel comfortable because I feel like I’m being treated … when the camera goes off, you all start telling me to get out, I can’t make a report.”
It appears that he was eventually allowed to make a report by a cop who did not seem very enthusiastic about it.
And while it’s common for police throughout the country to claim we are not allowed to record inside the public areas of police stations, there are no laws that forbid it.
In fact, it was only a few years ago that Illinois had the strictest eavesdropping law in the country, making it a felony to record cops against their wishes, even if they did not have an expectation of privacy.
(e) Nothing in this Article shall prohibit any individual, not a law enforcement officer, from recording a law enforcement officer in the performance of his or her duties in a public place or in circumstances in which the officer has no reasonable expectation of privacy. However, an officer may take reasonable action to maintain safety and control, secure crime scenes and accident sites, protect the integrity and confidentiality of investigations, and protect the public safety and order.
Had Rhymefest been secretly recording, then uploaded the video, then that could have been potentially problematic because the new Illinois eavesdropping law, like the Massachusetts wiretapping law, makes it illegal to secretly recording others, including police, even if they do not have an expectation of privacy.
But even that provision of the Massachusetts law is being challenged in court, so it might be only a matter of time when it is ruled unconstitutional.