Correction and Update: A caption below the video in this story originally stated that Michael Allison "filmed" his conversation with police officers -- it has been corrected to say "recorded." A clarification regarding the legality of video vs. audio recordings, appearing in parentheses, has been added to paragraph four. In Sept. 2011 the charges against Allison were dropped and in May 2012, a Federal appeals court banned enforcement of the Illinois eavesdropping law.



) -- The U.S. is facing a lot of problems, both economic and political. But we have a legal problem that's more important than anything else:

Across the country, police officers are unlawfully -- and sometimes violently -- arresting U.S. citizens who have committed no crime.

NBC News' disturbing coverage of Michael Allison -- a man facing life imprisonment for recording his conversations with police officers in Bridgeport, Ill.

Filming an on-duty police officer in a public place is protected by the Constitution, a position

upheld this week by a Massachusetts Federal Court

. But

scores of amateur videos across the Internet

prove that some police officers are ignorant of the laws they are tasked to uphold. In more disturbing videos, the viewer is left to assume that some officers view the law as

enforcing the opinion of a man with a gun and badge


But this madness doesn't stop on the streets. State prosecutors and judges are acting upon loopholes and bizarre interpretations of the law to incarcerate people arrested for recording police officers. In Illinois, a police officer can record a citizen without consent or warrant, but if the citizen turns his or her recording device (specifically, any device that records audio) on the police officer, it's considered a Class 1 Felony (on par with rape). This is

justified by claiming a breach of wiretapping or eavesdropping laws


President Obama -- a former Illinois resident and constitutional law professor -- needs to bring this local issue to the national spotlight.

Americans will not recover economically if they live in fear of their government. Our success as a nation comes from the free-thinking and creativity that our constitutional rights afford.

This is what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

Intimidation and unlawful imprisonment are what they rebelled against.

A president is not all-knowing and all-powerful in economic and political issues, but is very much a figurehead who can guide the direction of the country by demonstrating respect for our laws.

Frank Serpico -- the New York City police officer that risked his own life to expose systemic police corruption in the 1970s -- once said, "We need good role models, and they have to start at the top."

"We can still holler and shout but we have to light the lamps that shed the light on corruption, injustice, ineptitude and abuse of power. When we do, you will see the villains scurry into the woodwork the way roaches do when you turn on the light."

If Obama shined a light on this subject, he'd have my vote. As long as Americans feel protected by their constitutional rights, I'm sure we can pull ourselves out of any economic mess. Success is a symptom of freedom.

-- Written by John DeFeo in New York City

Follow @johndefeo


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