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Preparatory Meetings with Law Enforcement, Attorney, and Media

We recommend that you have a meeting with your municipality's chief of police, attorney, and mayor/village president before any incident which requires the police to request library records.  This meeting should be followed by a meeting with your local media.  (This document is also available in Word and PDF.)


Meeting with Police and Attorney

  • Contact the chief of police, your municipality’s Attorney and mayor/village president/chief executive (you should know best who to include). Explain that you want to meet with them before any incident takes place, so that you all have the same understanding of what needs to happen, and how their inquiries will be handled. You want to ensure a good process that will hold up in court. Broader involvement should help ensure a more effective agreement.
  • Have a copy of Wisconsin Statutes 43.30, and a copy of the definitions of various court orders.
  • Points you need to make to the police:
    • The library intends to cooperate with law enforcement requests for information, but that the library cannot respond, without a court order in good form, to requests for information about individuals’ use of library resources or services. To do so would violate:
      • Wisconsin State Law (43.30);
      • your users’ First Amendment freedoms; and
      • your professional ethics.
    • When law enforcement requests information, they need to speak to the person in charge.
    • The person in charge must be shown a court order in good form.
    • It is lawful for the person in charge not to respond immediately, but to wait for the municipal attorney to review the court order. This meeting should create a mechanism to facilitate this review process.
    • You all want a good process that will hold up in court.
    • Even if the library contacts the police to report criminal activity, a court order is required in order to release “library records which indicate the identity of any individual who borrows or uses the library's documents or other materials, resources or services.”
    • If you discover criminal activity on a library computer, you will sequester it and contact them for specific instructions about what to do in order to best preserve the evidence.
  • Information you need from them: 
    • Who should your library contact at the police department to report criminal activity?
    • If a library patron reports criminal activity at the library to library staff, how do the police want library staff to respond?
      • Refer the patron to the police?
    • If a citizen reports criminal activity at the library directly to the police (without informing the library), how will the police inform the library?

Meeting with Media and Police

  • After you’ve met with the police chief, your municipality’s attorney, and mayor/village president/chief executive, set up a meeting with your local media (the editor of the paper, etc.) and the police.
  • The purpose of this meeting is to have the media understand:
    • the law;
    • how law enforcement requests for library records are going to be handled, and why; and
    • how the library will respond, and why.
  • You want them to know who they should contact at the police department, and the library, if they hear of such requests.
  • You want them to understand any prior agreements reached among the library, the police, and the attorney.
  • Explain how issues will be handled if they arise, and that they are going to be informed when appropriate.
  • You don’t want the media to put the library in the position of having to defend pornography, or child pornographers. Rather, the library is preserving everyone’s right to privacy, and obeying the laws that protect that right. Nevertheless, the library will cooperate totally, once the proper court order without legal defect is produced.
  • Stress that the library can’t say anything about a FISA court order, and the police may not even know about it.
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