Dispute with local police chief causes controversy

A video posted on March 24 to the YouTube account of Alberto Gasca sparked controversy recently regarding the Beardstown Police Department.

The video in question showed Police Chief Shane Hunt confronting two Beardstown citizens, Alberto Gasca and his brother, while Alberto records the encounter. Chief Hunt informs the citizens that they are obligated by law to provide identification if it is requested by a police officer. When Gasca and his brother state that they are within their rights not to produce identification, Chief Hunt turns to the camera, telling Gasca that he must stop recording. When Gasca again states that he is within his rights to record the encounter, Chief Hunt refutes him, saying that if the recording was not terminated, the device would be seized.

According to Alberto Gasca, the situation began when he received a letter from city ordinance officer Debbie Large regarding an ordinance violation related to parking on grass. The grass in question was part of a lot Gasca had recently purchased to store personal property and park vehicles.

After receiving the ordinance violation notification, Gasca began to lay gravel on the lot in accordance with city ordinance. After putting down the first load of gravel, Gasca and his brother were confronted by Large, who claimed that they could not “turn the property into a parking lot.” She also requested that the two produce identification, which Gasca’s brother declined to do. Gasca asked Large to leave his property and not come back.

Later, Large returned with Police Chief Hunt and Mayor Steve Patterson. Gasca spoke with Patterson, explaining the situation, but during their conversation Chief Hunt confronted Gasca’s brother about his refusal to produce identification for Large during their earlier encounter. It was at that point that Gasca began recording.

According to illinoislegalaid.org, a citizen cannot be forced to show their ID, as there are no laws requiring citizens to carry identification on them at all times. However, a citizen may be required to identify themselves if the following conditions are met: the encounter occurs in a public place; the police suspect the citizen of a crime; and the police have clearly identified themselves as law enforcement officers.

Regarding the recording of police officers, Illinois Public Act 099-0352, SB1304 Enrolled, Article 1, Section 10-20, Subsection 11, states the following: No officer may hinder or prohibit any person, not a law enforcement officer, from recording a law enforcement officer in the performance of his or her duties in a public place or when the officer has no reasonable expectation of privacy. The law enforcement agency's written policy shall indicate the potential criminal penalties, as well as any departmental discipline, which may result from unlawful confiscation or destruction of the recording medium of a person who is not a law enforcement officer.

Gasca stated that when he later visited the Beardstown Police Station to ask if the department had a policy regarding the above statute, he was informed that it did not.

The full video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww3ekczrV1k.