: views from the Hill

Monday, June 14, 2004

Chicago Tribune | Sex case pits library against cops

[registration required for the Tribune's story]

This isn't a Patriot Act library story -- it couldn't be because the library and librarians couldn't have spoken about a Patriot Act story. This is a different story, from the Chicago Tribune:

Sex case pits library against cops
In Naperville, librarians cite state law--and the Constitution--in forcing police to get a court order before releasing the identity of a man accused of looking at Internet porn

By James Kimberly Tribune staff reporter
Published June 11, 2004

This story contains corrected material, published June 12, 2004.

When three teenagers in Naperville's Nichols Library reported seeing a man fondling himself while looking at Internet pornography, library workers called police.

The man left before officers arrived, so police asked to see who was logged on at the computer. To the surprise of police, the library refused, opening another chapter in the controversy over how much access law enforcement should have to library records.

"We think it is incumbent upon them, since they're in the business of providing a safe environment and we're in the business of providing public safety, to cooperate with us," said Naperville Police Capt. Ray McGury.

The library stood behind the Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act, which says patrons' privacy must be protected unless there is a court order to release information.

What I find disturbing is the Naperville police reaction to the library telling them that according to law the police must provide a court order before the library can release information about a patron.

The police reaction was sort of a 'Well, sure that's the law and that's all well and good but we're talking about safety here, law breaking. What if we really need the information and we want it !now!! You mean to say you won't give it to us?'

The Naperville Police Department believes the confidentiality law was intended to keep it from spying on people, not to prevent library employees from helping officers solve crimes, McGury said.

"I asked them, 'If a child is snatched from this library do I have to get a search warrant to get information on who was here?' and they said, 'Based on the state law, yes.' God forbid that happens."

The law says that it's not up to the police to determine when they do and don't need a court order. If they feel their need for information is justified, just go get the court order already.

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