040914cm0294SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler's plan to make it a crime for a police dispatcher to tip off a criminal that law enforcement is nearby passed the Illinois General Assembly.

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.

"911 dispatchers are an important part of our criminal justice system," Koehler said. "They should be held to the same high standards as law enforcement officers and prosecutors."

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.

Koehler's proposal, Senate Bill 2695, would expand the definition 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.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Michael Unes (R-Pekin) in the House, now goes to the governor for his approval.

Category: Press Releases

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