Pic-Services-Fire-RedCenterSPRINGFIELD – A new law, sponsored by State Senator Dave Koehler, makes it a crime for a police dispatcher to tip off a criminal that law enforcement is nearby.

In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that it's not a crime for a 911 dispatcher to let a drug dealer – or other criminal – know that police are in the area. The court called the case "troubling" and the defendant's actions "unjustifiable," but found nothing in Illinois law making such behavior illegal.

"When you call 911, you expect the dispatchers to be as professional as the police officers, paramedics and fire fighters," Koehler said. "This law will hold dispatchers to the same high standard."

In 1998, a police dispatcher tipped off a local drug dealer that law enforcement officials were in the area near his house in the Chicago suburbs. The Cook County State's Attorney charged her with official misconduct. The trial court found her guilty and sentenced her to two years of probation and 250 hours of community service.

However, the 911 dispatcher appealed the verdict. The appellate court ruled that nothing in Illinois law allowed her to be charged with official misconduct. The local police department had every right to fire her, but she hadn't broken any Illinois law. In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed.

The new law fixes this loophole by expanding the definition of official misconduct to make it a Class 3 felony for a dispatcher – or anyone in a similar position – to warn a criminal that law enforcement is nearby or on the way.

The crime of official misconduct already covers a wide variety of corrupt acts by public employees, including accepting bribes and misusing one's authority for personal gain. The penalty for a Class 3 felony is two to five years in prison.

Now that the governor has signed the law, it takes effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Category: Press Releases


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