Illinois Law Students Oppose SB 2562

Monday, May 21, 2018

[Law students, please sign by clicking here.]

Dear Members of the Illinois House of Representatives:

On behalf of the undersigned Illinois law students and future lawyers*, we strongly urge you to vote in opposition to SB 2562 and reject the autonomous, continuous, and suspicionless surveillance of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

The Illinois Constitution, the United States Constitution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognize inalienable rights to peaceful assembly and free expression. From the Boston Tea Party to the Women’s March, Americans have used their rights to protest to secure justice, demand accountability, and effect positive change. The citizens of our state share a long and proud history of spearheading movements that have shaped the nation. The good ideas of tomorrow are often found on the streets of Chicago today.

Recognizing this legacy, the Illinois General Assembly in 2013 enacted the groundbreaking Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act. This law applied the great American tradition of limited government to emerging drone technology: police must obtain a search warrant based upon probable cause before using a drone to gather information. At the same time, the law gave police flexibility to respond to emergency situations. Law enforcement may use surveillance drones if they have a reasonable suspicion “that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent harm to life, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence.”  In situations where public safety is truly at stake, police already have the legal authority to deploy surveillance drones.

Rather than adding further to public safety, SB 2562 gives police departments unconstrained authority to use drones to spy on citizens exercising their fundamental human rights.  Simply attending an event with 99 other people would be sufficient to trigger such surveillance.  In other words, this bill treats the full enjoyment of constitutionally protected rights as inherently suspicious. It implies that people are being scrutinized because the state is concerned about their legitimate activities, thereby creating and heightening adversarial tension between citizens and the state. The fact that this bill would allow police to remotely watch, follow, and document Illinois residents simply because they are exercising their constitutional liberties in Illinois’s lauded public spaces will intimidate and discourage people from exercising those rights.

Compounding the negative psychological and chilling effects that the mere presence of the drones will cause is the danger that they could be used in combination with facial recognition technology and data analysis programs. Facial recognition technology could be used to catalog everyone who attends or participates in a protest, a reasonable fear given the Chicago Police Department’s concerning history of profiling Illinois residents on secret lists. Furthermore, experience has shown time and again that increasing police discretion disproportionately impacts communities of color and other marginalized populations. Authorizing suspicionless drone surveillance of protests also poses a particularly potent threat to our state’s immigrant communities. Drones that have the ability to follow, identify, and catalog people in crowds could foreseeably be used to track people of interest to ICE. The impact of this bill thus falls most heavily on marginalized communities for whom protest is a potent tool of social justice.

SB 2562 creates dangerous opportunities for abuse while offering no benefits to public safety beyond existing law.  After decades of flagrant misconduct by the Chicago Police Department--the Red Squad, the Burge torture scandal, the Homan Square blacksite, the Code of Silence that covers up violence like the Laquan McDonald murder, and a Department of Justice finding of a pattern or practice of unjustified use of force--Illinois residents understand the dangers of an unconstrained police force. Suspicionless drone surveillance of protesters, particularly when combined with the invasive possibilities of facial recognition technology, gives the police unprecedented power to target residents and silence speech. It is repugnant to the ideals of a free society. In the name of liberty, in the name of democracy, and in the name of justice, we urge you to reject this bill.

*Written by the student coauthors of Defending Dissent, a forthcoming report on successful human rights compliant policing strategies and tactics for policing protests in the United States and abroad.

Sincerely,

[Law students, please sign by clicking here.]

Aaron M. Tucek

The University of Chicago Law School

Ala Salameh

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Alan Hassler

The University of Chicago Law School

Alexander Robledo

The University of Chicago Law School

Alyssa Howard

The University of Chicago Law School

André J. Washington

The University of Chicago Law School

Andrew Waks

The University of Chicago Law School

Angel E. Reyes

The University of Chicago Law School

Barry Frett

The University of Chicago Law School

Ben Segal

The University of Chicago Law School

Benjamin Cohen

The University of Chicago Law School

Benjamin Kloss

The University of Chicago Law School

Beth Daviess

The University of Chicago Law School

Betul Serbest

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Briana Goncalves

The University of Chicago Law School

Brynne Morningstar

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Chinwe Chukwuogo

The University of Chicago Law School

Christopher Verdugo

The University of Chicago Law School

Claire Horrell

The University of Chicago Law School

Courtney Quam

The John Marshall Law School

David Marenberg

The University of Chicago Law School

Danielle Johnson

The University of Chicago Law School

Eian Katz

The University of Chicago Law School

Eleni Christou

The University of Chicago Law School

Elizabeth Ketchum

The University of Chicago Law School

Elizabeth Rodriguez

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Erika Dirk

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Gabrielle Neace

The John Marshall Law School

Hubert Zanczak

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Imara McMillan

The University of Chicago Law School

Isabella S. Nascimento

The University of Chicago Law School

Jane Chapman

The University of Chicago Law School

Jackson Wimberly

The University of Chicago Law School

Jamie Lee

The University of Chicago Law School

Jenine Saleh

The University of Chicago Law School

Jennie Hersh

The University of Chicago Law School

Jeremy Chen

The University of Chicago Law School

Joey Carrillo

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Joseph DiCola

The John Marshall Law School

Kaitlin Schneider

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Katherine Bruce

The University of Chicago Law School

Katie Stevens

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Kevin Carlson

The University of Chicago Law School

Laurel Hattix

The University of Chicago Law School

Lauren NuDelman

The University of Chicago Law School

Lee Stark

The University of Chicago Law School

Lucia Goin

The University of Chicago Law School

Madeline Hall

The University of Chicago Law School

Marcela Barba

The University of Chicago Law School

Mariah Garcia

The University of Chicago Law School

Mayra Gomez

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Mehwish Aslam Shaukat

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Miranda Huber

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Monika Weisman

The University of Chicago Law School

Nabihah Maqbool

The University of Chicago Law School

Nicole LaBell

The University of Chicago Law School

Nicole Young

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Osama Alkhawaja

The University of Chicago Law School

Parker Eudy

The University of Chicago Law School

Piper Pehrson

The University of Chicago Law School

Rosemary O'Malley

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Sam Fuller

The University of Chicago Law School

Saman Haque

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Samantha Damewood

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Sameeul Haque

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Samuel Dixon

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Shelbi Smith

The University of Chicago Law School

Tess L. Erickson Meyer

The University of Chicago Law School

Victor Lin

The University of Chicago Law School

Vinícius Azambuja de Oliveira

The University of Chicago Law School

Whittney Barth

The University of Chicago Law School