A brave Copwatch.com member recently described a series of events which culminated in his attempt to obtain complaint forms from two different police departments in the state of Illinois.
The following is his unedited first-hand account (presented in three sections). Certain portions have been highlighted by the editor.
The only reason we include the following disclaimer is because our legal department says we must. DISCLAIMER: All of the officers and support personnel mentioned below are innocent of any criminal, civil, procedural, or administrative wrongdoing until proven guilty or liable in a court of law or other properly constituted tribunal. These parties are encouraged to submit rebuttals to these charges. All of the following material consists solely of the personal opinions of the author, Al Shemonia, and such opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Copwatch.com or its board, associates, affiliates, subsidiaries, or members. This material is not currently presented as fact.
On the evening of June 10, 2001, at approx. 9:30 PM I entered the Dekalb, Illinois Police Department to request a complaint form to report a Dekalb Police Officer for misconduct. I entered the department with witness Mr. Grant Berg, a Corporal in the United States Army.
I approached the front desk/dispatch room and was asked "can I help you" by Juanita L. Burke, the uniformed dispatcher on duty. I informed Ms. Burke that I wished to receive a complaint form for the purpose of reporting a citizens complaint against a Dekalb Police officer for misconduct. I was told I could not file a complaint, but that I could speak with an officer regarding the incident. I replied that I did not wish to speak with an officer, but would like to receive a complaint form with which I could document my complaint in writing and forward it to the appropriate agencies. I was again told by Ms. Burke that I could not file a complaint against an officer, but I would be allowed to speak with an Officer regarding my complaint, and he would decide if my complaint was worthy of a report.
I then produced a digital voice recorder from my front right pocket and asked Ms. Burke if I could document via audio record her refusal to allow me to receive a complaint form. Ms. Burke then became irate and told me to leave or I would be arrested. I promptly left the Dekalb Police Department. At no time was the recorder activated or any recording made. Mr. Grant Berg stood beside me and witnessed this entire exchange.
I entered my vehicle with Mr. Burg and activated my scanning receiver on the frequency pairs of 156.0900/155.2500 MHz, with a receive PL of 77.0 KHz (FCC License ID: KNEQ824, Dekalb Police dispatch) and 156.0300/155.6400 MHz, with a receive PL of 141.3 KHz (FCC License ID: WNQR585, Sycamore Police dispatch). I listened as Ms. Burke dispatched a report of a "suspicious subject" along with the description of myself, my vehicle and my last known direction of travel. After this dispatch, I listened as Dekalb and Sycamore Officers made plans to meet together in the K-mart parking lot on IL-Rt 23 in Sycamore to discuss this incident.
At approx. 10:00 PM of the same evening, (06-10-01) I entered the Sycamore, Illinois Police Department, again accompanied by witness Corporal Grant Berg to request a complaint form to report a Sycamore Police Officer for misconduct. I approached the main desk/dispatch room and informed the female who appeared to be working at the desk that I would like to receive a complaint form for the purpose of reporting a citizens complaint against a Sycamore, Illinois Police Officer. I was told this form was not available to me, as department policy was that I must first speak to an Officer and describe the incident. The Officer would then decide if the complaint was worthy of a report.
I advised the desk employee/Dispatcher that I did not wish to speak to an officer, but that I would like a complaint form that I could document my complaint and forward it to the appropriate agencies. Again I was told this was not possible and was against department policy.
I was then advised that Sergeant Keith D. Snyder would be called so he could get me the appropriate forms. I waited in the lobby for Sgt. Keith D. Snyder to arrive. At approx. 10:30 PM, Sgt. Keith D. Snyder arrived and approached me and Mr. Burg in the lobby/waitingroom and asked what the problem was. I advised him that I wished to obtain a complaint form for the purpose of reporting a complaint against a Sycamore Police Officer. Sgt. Snyder informed me that this was not possible, and that first I must describe the incident to him and give him the names of any officers I wished to report.
I declined to speak about my complaint with him, but again asked for a complaint form so that I could document my complaint and forward it to the appropriate agencies. I was told this violated department procedures, and that I could not receive any forms for the purpose of reporting police misconduct without first detailing the incident with him, and providing the names of officers that I wished to report.
I then produced a digital recorder from my right front pocket and requested permission to document via audio record his refusal to allow me to obtain a complaint form and was promptly told to turn around, as I was being arrested for felony eavesdropping. At no time was the recorder activated or any recording initiated.
Sgt. Snyder demanded the recorder be turned over to him. I gave the recorder to Sgt. Snyder and showed him that there was no recording made, as his permission to be recorded had not been obtained. Sgt. Snyder advised me that the Dekalb Police also wished to charge me with Eavesdropping. Sgt. Snyder then advised me I was under arrest.
I was then handcuffed with my hands behind my back, searched and taken into Police custody.
Sgt. Snyder then transported me to the Radio Shack/K-Mart parking lot on Rt. 23 in Sycamore, where several uniformed Sycamore Police officers were waiting in multiple Sycamore Police vehicles. Sgt. Snyder spoke to them for several minutes outside the vehicle. A Dekalb Police vehicle containing 2 uniformed officers then arrived and I was turned over into their custody. My recorder, bearing no recording, was also turned over to the Dekald Officers. The handcuffs were removed, and replaced with a pair of handcuffs belonging to one of the Dekalb officers. I was then searched and seated in the back seat of a Dekalb Police vehicle. Soon I was transported to the Dekalb Police booking room where I was handcuffed to a wooden bench for several hours.
During this time I was brought a statement form and asked to write a statement about my actions that evening. I advised officers I wished to remain silent, and was then told that the Dekalb County Assistant States Attorney on call was being contacted to see if charges would be authorized against me. Later I was told by Dekalb Officers that the States Attorneys office had authorized the charge of attempted eavesdropping, a class A misdemeanor, instead of the class 4 felony charge of eavesdropping. I was then fingerprinted, photographed and held on $1000.00 bond with 10% to apply. I was informed my recorder would be photographed and the photograph placed into evidence against me, and the recorder would be returned to Sgt. Snyder of the Sycamore Police Department. A $100.00 cash bond (USC) was then posted and I was advised I would be held for return to the Sycamore Police department, as their department also wished to file charges for attempted eavesdropping.
At approx. 1:00 AM, I was again handcuffed with my hands behind my back and placed in the back seat of a waiting Sycamore Police vehicle to be transferred to the Sycamore Police Department. Upon arrival I was met by Sgt. Snyder who again informed me I was under arrest for the charge of attempted eavesdropping, and would be held on $1000.00 bond, 10% to apply. I was again fingerprinted, photographed and then placed in a locked interrogation room where I waited for bail money to arrive. A $100.00 cash Bond (USC) was then posted and I was released from custody at approx. 2:15 AM on June 11, 2001. My recorder, bearing no recording, was confiscated and placed into evidence.
This was my second attempt in two weeks to report my original complaint against Dekalb and Sycamore Officers. The first attempt was refused, as I was advised I could not report an officer without first detailing the complaint with an officer. My second attempt landed me in jail. I believe these charges are simply a police intimidation tactic used to protect other officers from being reported for their felony criminal actions, an example of the "blue wall of silence" in action. As of today's date, I have remained unsuccessful in my attempts to report my original complaints against the Dekalb, IL and Sycamore, IL Police Officers involved.
In an effort to assist this brave member of Copwatch, we instructed our legal department to undertake some research. The following are excerpts from (and links to) the relevant Illinois statutes and municipal codes, with each citation followed by our comments (highlighted in red). DISCLAIMER: No members of our legal department are authorized to practice law in Illinois, and the following information is not to be relied upon as legal advice. Anyone facing a legal problem should consult their own attorney.
DEKALB MUNICIPAL CODE
Chapter 4 POLICE DEPARTMENT
The Police Department shall be organized into such divisions and units thereof as shall be determined by the Chief of Police with the approval of the City Manager. The scope, duties and responsibilities of each division and for each officer or civilian employee therein shall be determined and spelled out in a printed procedures manual prepared by the Chief of Police, subject to the approval of the City Manager and thereafter distributed to each officer and civilian employee of the department. The manual may be revised from time to time.
You need to get a copy of the manual referenced here.
4.08 OFFICERS' DUTIES.
c) Performance of Duties. No member of the Police force shall neglect or refuse to perform any duty required by him by the ordinances of the City, or by the Chief of Police in the discharge of his official duties, or be guilty of any fraud, extortion, favoritism or willful wrong or injustice.
The manual will probably verify that the officer had a duty to give you a complaint form.
(720 ILCS 5/14-1)(b) Eavesdropper.
An eavesdropper is any person, including law enforcement officers,
who is a principal, as defined in this Article, or who operates or
participates in the operation of any eavesdropping device contrary to
the provisions of this Article.
It's unlikely that this definition would encompass yourself, since you did not operate the device.
(720 ILCS 5/14-1)(d) Conversation.
For the purposes of this Article, the term conversation means any
oral communication between 2 or more persons regardless of whether one
or more of the parties intended their communication to be of a private
nature under circumstances justifying that expectation.
NOTE: The law employed by the state of Illinois to handle this issue helps to enable governmental corruption. A preferred means of addressing this issue relies on the "reasonable expectation of privacy" standard: if a conversation between two individuals is conducted in a private manner where it is unlikely to be overheard, then the conversation cannot be recorded without the consent of both parties. However, if the conversation is conducted in a public place where it could be overheard by a third party, it is not considered private and may be recorded.
IDEALLY, CITIZENS SHOULD BE FREE TO RECORD, OVERTLY OR COVERTLY, ANY UTTERANCE OF ANY GOVERNMENTAL EMPLOYEE WHO IS ACTING IN ANY OFFICIAL CAPACITY, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE CONVERSATION IS "PRIVATE" OR NOT. (SEE CRUCIAL REFORMS).
(720 ILCS 5/14-2)
Sec. 14-2. Elements of the offense; affirmative defense.
(a) A person commits eavesdropping when he:
(2) Manufactures, assembles, distributes, or possesses any
electronic, mechanical, eavesdropping, or other device knowing that
or having reason to know that the design of the device renders it
primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious hearing or
recording of oral conversations or the interception, retention, or
transcription of electronic communications and the intended or
actual use of the device is contrary to the provisions of this
This is absolutely ludicrous. What if the accused is a student who utilizes the device to record lectures with the permission of the instructor? What if the accused is a freelance amateur journalist who uses it to record interviews? What if the accused is a birdwatcher who uses it to record birdsongs? What if the accused utilizes it to record memos to himself? What if it's used to play MP3s? The possible legal uses of such a device are endless.
(720 ILCS 5/14-3)
Sec. 14-3. Exemptions. The following activities shall be exempt
from the provisions of this Article:
(i) Recording of a conversation made by or at the request of a
person, not a law enforcement officer or agent of a law enforcement
officer, who is a party to the conversation, under reasonable suspicion
that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to
commit, or has committed a criminal offense against the person or a
member of his or her immediate household, and there is reason to believe
that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained by the recording;
If you can find any criminal law, (local, state, or federal), that the cops broke (or seemed likely to break) in refusing to give you a complaint form and/or threatening and arresting you, then you may have been entitled to record the conversation without their consent.
(720 ILCS 5/14-4)
Sec. 14-4. Sentence.
(a) Eavesdropping, for a first offense, is a Class 4 felony and,
for a second or subsequent offense, is a Class 3 felony.
(b) The eavesdropping of an oral conversation or an electronic
communication between any law enforcement officer, State's Attorney,
Assistant State's Attorney, the Attorney General, Assistant Attorney
General, or a judge, while in the performance of his or her official
duties, if not authorized by this Article or proper court order, is a
Class 1 felony.
NOTE: No wonder Chicago has a well-deserved national reputation for corruption. This section is absolutely indefensible. It imposes exceptionally harsh penalties on anyone who has the temerity to record the activities of the errand-boys of Chicago's ward bosses (cops, prosecuting attorneys, and judges).
(720 ILCS 5/8-4)
Sec. 8-4. Attempt.
(a) Elements of the Offense.
A person commits an attempt when, with intent to commit a specific
offense, he does any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the
commission of that offense.
From what you've stated, no "substantial step" was taken toward the commission of the offense. Nor did you have the requisite intent to commit the offense- if you had, you would not have asked permission to activate the recorder.
(725 ILCS 5/108B-14)
Sec. 108B-14. Training.
(a) The Director of the Illinois Department of State Police shall:
(3) In cooperation with the Illinois Law Enforcement Training
Standards Board, set minimum standards for certification and
periodic recertification of electronic criminal surveillance
officers as eligible to apply for orders authorizing the
interception of private oral communications, to conduct the
interceptions, and to use the communications or evidence derived
from them in official proceedings; and
(b) The Executive Director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training
Standards Board shall:
(1) Pursuant to the Illinois Police Training Act, review the
course of training prescribed by the Department for the purpose of
certification relating to reimbursement of expenses incurred by
local law enforcement agencies participating in the electronic
criminal surveillance officer training process, and
It would be a good idea to check these sources also, (Illinois Department of State Police, Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board, Illinois Police Training Act) to see if they have promulgated any regulations regarding the availability of complaint forms.
(725 ILCS 5/114-2)
Sec. 114-2. Motion for a bill of particulars.
(a) A written motion for a bill of particulars shall be filed
before or within a reasonable time after arraignment and shall specify
the particulars of the offense necessary to enable the defendant to
prepare his defense.
(b) A bill of particulars may be amended at any time before trial
subject to such conditions as justice may require.
(Source: Laws 1963, p. 2836.)
You should consider filing for one of these within the appropriate time period.
ARTICLE 114. PRE-TRIAL MOTIONS
(725 ILCS 5/114-1)
Sec. 114-1. Motion to dismiss charge.
(a) Upon the written motion of the defendant made prior to trial
before or after a plea has been entered the court may dismiss the
indictment, information or complaint upon any of the following grounds:
(1) The defendant has not been placed on trial in compliance
with Section 103-5 of this Code;
(2) The prosecution of the offense is barred by Sections 3-3
through 3-8 of the "Criminal Code of 1961", approved July 28, 1961,
as heretofore and hereafter amended;
(3) The defendant has received immunity from prosecution for
the offense charged;
(4) The indictment was returned by a Grand Jury which was
improperly selected and which results in substantial injustice to
(5) The indictment was returned by a Grand Jury which acted
contrary to Article 112 of this Code and which results in
substantial injustice to the defendant;
(6) The court in which the charge has been filed does not have
(7) The county is an improper place of trial;
(8) The charge does not state an offense;
(9) The indictment is based solely upon the testimony of an
(10) The defendant is misnamed in the charge and the misnomer
results in substantial injustice to the defendant.
(11) The requirements of Section 109-3.1 have not been
(b) The court shall require any motion to dismiss to be filed
within a reasonable time after the defendant has been arraigned. Any
motion not filed within such time or an extension thereof shall not be
considered by the court and the grounds therefor, except as to
subsections (a) (6) and (a) (8) of this Section, are waived.
(c) If the motion presents only an issue of law the court shall
determine it without the necessity of further pleadings. If the motion
alleges facts not of record in the case the State shall file an answer
admitting or denying each of the factual allegations of the motion.
(d) When an issue of fact is presented by a motion to dismiss and
the answer of the State the court shall conduct a hearing and determine
(d-5) When a defendant seeks dismissal of the charge upon the
ground set forth in subsection (a)(7) of this Section, the defendant
shall make a prima facie showing that the county is an improper place of
trial. Upon such showing, the State shall have the burden of proving,
by a preponderance of the evidence, that the county is the proper place
(e) Dismissal of the charge upon the grounds set forth in
subsections (a) (4) through (a) (11) of this Section shall not prevent
the return of a new indictment or the filing of a new charge and upon
such dismissal the court may order that the defendant be held in custody
or if he had been previously released on bail that his bail be continued
for a specified time pending the return of a new indictment or the
filing of a new charge.
(f) If the court determines that the motion to dismiss based upon
the grounds set forth in subsections (a) (6) and (a) (7) is well founded
it may, instead of dismissal, order the cause transferred to a court of
competent jurisdiction or to a proper place of trial.
Perhaps one or more of these should be filed, particularly A1, A2, A8, AND A11 (check the requirements referred to by some of these). Though it says that the charge can be refiled, the prosecutor would have to do so within whatever speedy trial deadline is applicable in Illinois, (assuming that your attorney does not grant them a continuance).
LATEST COMMUNIQUE FROM THE ACCUSED:
I am open to any and all legal advice anyone may be willing to submit, as I must rely on a court appointed Attorney to represent me throughout all this. Again, thank you all for the support, and may God bless you.
Upcoming court appearances:
July 11, 9:00 AM, room 100, (attempted eavesdropping, Dekalb)
July 18, 9:00 AM, room 100, (attempted eavesdropping, Sycamore)
July 20, 1:30 PM, room 204, (burglary, 2 counts, Dekalb)
July 20, 1:30 PM, room 204, (burglary, new charge, Dekalb)
All dates are at the Dekalb County Courthouse
URGENT: If you have any suggestions for Mr. Shemonia's defense, please contribute them here.
All Copwatch members should offer our full support.
This is one of the best-written stories we have ever received. The allegations are specific and detailed, and are backed with names, dates, times, supporting witnesses, and other salient factors. The complainant sounds credible, educated, observant, and reliable. It will be much more difficult for the authorities to sweep a complaint like this under the rug than one which is poorly written and lacking detailed allegations.
It is very common for cops to behave in the manner described here, since their blind reflex to "close ranks" and provide cover for their fellow cops overrides any concern they may have for the rights of ordinary citizens. They will often take extraordinary steps to protect fellow officers from charges of misconduct. In fact, one of the primary leitmotifs by which police culture can be identified is the so-called "blue wall of silence", an unwritten code of conduct which requires that all police officers, (as well as support personnel), protect their co-workers from any and all charges of malfeasance.
In the civilian world, the closest analogy to the "blue wall of silence" is the Mafia code of "omerta".
Copwatch.com is dedicated to the total demolition of the "blue wall of silence" (see our CRUCIAL REFORMS section for further details).
Help copwatch fight police brutality. Bad cops must be prosecuted. Police corruption is a major problem- copwatch will root it out. Dirty cops threaten the criminal justice system. Police misconduct is an epidemic. Police abuse innocent citizens all too often. Police harassment is a frequent occurrence. The blue wall of silence protects bad cops, and police culture must be reformed. Deviant cops must be fired. Police deviance cannot be tolerated. Last year saw a bad cop arrested for rape, a dirty cop charged with extortion, police corruption involving drug distribution, a criminal cop jailed for brutality, a disgraced police chief sentenced for domestic abuse, a convicted sheriff guilty of theft, moonlighting police disciplined for misconduct, convicted cops fired for sexual assault, a guilty cop suspended for harassment, and a discredited cop charged with perjury. Police corruption is common.