Chicago Area Legislator Faces Defeat of A Local "Patriot Act"

Police and their representatives in Naperville, IL are disappointed by the likely defeat of a state bill to allow them to have more authority in accessing information about library patrons. Without the bill, police have to wait to obtain a court order before learning the identities of people allegedly involved in even victimless crimes.

Police sought the legislation after a standoff that occurred last May when three teenagers reported to library officials that a man was viewing pornography and fondling himself in the computer lab. Library officials called police, but the man was gone by the time police arrived;
librarians refused to turn over computer records, citing the Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act, prohibiting library officials from releasing registration or circulation records except with a court order. Story from the Chicago Tribune.

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I agree with the concept ...

... and I'd even like to see it expanded to give libraries discretion to use library records to i.d. suspects in crimes reported to staff by eyewitnesses, even when there's no emergency. If our records indicate that Joe Schmoe is probably the guy circ staff saw vandalizing a computer, I'd like to be able to just give Joe's name and address to the police.

But as far as it goes, this particular bill needs some work. For instance, it lacks definitions of "emergency" and "imminent danger." Also, it doesn't seem to recognize a difference between situations like police seeking the name of the guy who was signed in at Internet Computer 12 when witnesses say some creep was exposing himself there and police seeking the names of as many people as possible who may have witnessed a reported crime in the library an hour ago. In protecting info about what all the innocent witnesses were doing in the latter situation, the bill would possibly nix the disclosure in the former -- meaning that nothing would change in a case like Naperville's. (The library couldn't give out info which indicates "services used at the library." Does "services" include computer access?) The text of the bill is here.

In the Trib article, the police recognize that they'd risk having a criminal case thrown out if a library were to give up information without a court order, under the current law.

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