021914 js 0010SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler's plan to make it a crime for a police dispatcher to tip off a criminal that law enforcement is on the way moved one step closer to becoming law today when it passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee.

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.

"We can't hold the men and women who support the police to a lower standard than police officers themselves when it comes to enforcing the law," the Peoria Democrat said. "When a 911 dispatcher warns a criminal that police are nearby, it undermines everyone's trust in our law enforcement system."

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 Supreme Court agreed.

Koehler's proposal would make it a Class 3 felony for a police dispatcher – or anyone in a similar position – to warn a criminal that law enforcement is nearby or on the way by expanding the definition of official misconduct to include this circumstance. 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. Koehler's legislation, Senate Bill 2695, will now be heard by the full Senate.