Is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana eavesdropping on the personal conversations of his police officers? That is the question that five claimants presented the city, attaching with it a 90-day deadline in which to respond. Wiretapping is a sensitive issue, and no better case demonstrates this.
Since there is no rational reason for why the mayor would spy on his police officers, it seems odd that the mayor would have a legal obligation to respond to the claimants' demand. But reports following the story indicate that no response will be considered a denial.
Out of the five claimants, four are police officials and only one claims to have proof that his conversations were taped, the city’s Commander of Homicide, Tim Corbett. But we can rule out the assumption that city officials were snooping as a way of seeking thrills from crime drama.
Perhaps the city is also interested in marital minutia. Detective Brian Young and his wife Stacy are among the five claimants accusing the city of recording their conversations.
But then there’s Division Chief Steve Richmond. Richmond is a claimant because he believes that the line he was assigned upon receiving his promotion was tapped. However, he was cleverly dodged the privacy invasion by demanding to keep his original phone line.
It is unclear why Lt. Dave Wells is among the claimants.
Wiretapping is a contentious topic despite the many years the laws have been in effect. In Pennsylvania, for example, various parties disagree over the State attorney’s office’s proposal to modify the language of their bill for the first time in 10 years. Proponents of changing the bill, argue that law enforcement needs leverage for nabbing criminals.
In Indiana, the anti-wiretapping advocates are law enforcement.
Even if the city of South Bend acknowledges the claim and admits that there is any truth behind it, the claimants are still not likely to profit from the punitive damages they will seek for every phone call. The claimants will more than likely lose the case if it even goes to trial.
The Federal Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping statute specifically excludes law enforcement from parties deserving the protection of privacy. Additionally, the phone conversations the claimants allege were taped were made from department equipment belonging to the city.
Also, the case of Amati vs. Woodstock serves as an example of law enforcement officials in Illinois who failed to win the court’s favor over their position that their privacy should be protected despite their carrying a badge.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman