Judith Flint: Heroine or Jerk?
It's a classic case of the little guy--or, in this case, gal--standing up to authority, at least the way the Associated Press describes it in a dispatch from Randolph, Vt.:
Children's librarian Judith Flint was getting ready for the monthly book discussion group for 8- and 9-year-olds on "Love That Dog" when police showed up.
They weren't kidding around: Five state police detectives wanted to seize Kimball Public Library's public access computers as they frantically searched for a 12-year-old girl, acting on a tip that she sometimes used the terminals.
Flint demanded a search warrant, touching off a confrontation that pitted the privacy rights of library patrons against the rights of police on official business. . . .
Investigators did obtain a warrant about eight hours later, but the June 26 standoff in the 105-year-old, red brick library on Main Street frustrated police and had fellow librarians cheering Flint.
"What I observed when I came in were a bunch of very tall men encircling a very small woman," said the library's director, Amy Grasmick, who held fast to the need for a warrant after coming to the rescue of the 4-foot-10 Flint. . . .
The missing girl, Brooke Bennett, turned up dead a week later. Her uncle Michael Jacques, a convicted sex offender, has been charged with kidnapping her. "Authorities say Jacques had gotten into her MySpace account and altered postings to make investigators believe she had run off with someone she met online," the AP reports.
The cops were in the library that day "chasing a lead that she had used the computers there to arrange a rendezvous":
"The lead detective said to me that they need to take the public computers and I said 'OK, show me your warrant and that will be that,'" said Flint, 56. "He did say he didn't need any paper. I said 'You do.' He said 'I'm just trying to save a 12-year-old girl,' and I told him 'Show me the paper.' "
A Vermont law that requires librarians to demand court orders in such cases had not yet gone into effect, so Flint was acting on her own discretion in demanding a warrant. The cops yielded and obtained a warrant eight hours later.
Grasmick, and by extension the AP, depicts the police as bullies picking on "a very small women." To our mind her smallness is not just a matter of physical stature. Presented with an opportunity to help a little girl in danger, she officiously responded: "Show me the paper."
Far from bullying her, the cops--although they were bigger and more numerous than she--deferred to her, slowing the investigation by crucial hours in order to comply with her demand. You can describe their treatment of her as impressively chivalrous or as excessively obeisant. In either case, it was far from domineering.
Flint, of course, would claim that she was standing up for a principle--for, in the AP's words, "the privacy rights of library patrons." Have you noticed, though, how the people who assert this principle are never patrons but always librarians? We'd say this is really a case of status envy. Librarians want their "profession" to be treated with the same respect society affords the practice of medicine or law. (We should note that people in our own line of work are vulnerable to the same criticism, as evidenced by this item on proposed shield laws.)
Here is a case in which police searching for a missing girl were forced to waste precious time because a bureaucrat, acting on her own authority, said "Show me the paper" instead of "How can I help?" Judith Flint is no heroine.