Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Public Library investigating after video of fight surfaces in mayoral campaign

The downtown Spokane Public Library is shown  Sept. 18, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane Public Library is investigating after an unauthorized video of an altercation between a guard and a library patron was posted by a mayoral candidate on social media.

The 90-second video showed a man body-slamming a guard into the library floor after a scuffle between the two and was shared by mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward on social media. In a Facebook post accompanying the video, Woodward identified the man who had fought with the security guard as homeless and wrote that “our beautiful library has turned into a transient center, and that’s NOT ok!”

Caris O’Malley, deputy director of the Spokane Public Library system, said the guard in the video is an employee of a security company the city contracts with. After the library discovered the video had been made public Tuesday, it asked the company to move the guard to a different location because he had violated library rules by accessing the footage.

O’Malley said only library managers and security can access footage, and only for a police investigation or to share with library staff, so they can identify people who are not allowed in the library. He said the security company, CMS, is investigating the employee for sharing the video and for how he handled himself during the altercation.

Library policy maintains that guards should try to de-escalate a situation when they can and avoid physical altercations. O’Malley said the man in the video was asked to leave because of disruptive behavior, and the library filed a police report after the incident and shared security footage with law enforcement.

O’Malley said the library also tries to protect the privacy of its patrons, and if the guard had used a public records request to access the video and it had gone through the correct channels, they would not have requested the company reassign him.

“We treat surveillance video with the same level of privacy and confidentiality that we do with materials that people check out or websites that they visit,” he said. “Our customers’ confidentiality is really important to us. In this case, it was breached by a contractor.”

Dave Christiansen, vice president of operations for CMS, said he couldn’t comment on particulars about the incident, but said the guard did have to take time off because of an injury resulting from the altercation.

He said the company also would not comment on the housing status of the patron or other issues in the library that Woodward and other mayoral candidates have shared since the video was posted online.

“I don’t want to weigh in on a political battle,” he said. “We’re just trying to do our jobs.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Woodward said community members, including the security guard’s family, were concerned about safety at the downtown Spokane Public Library. She said many people she has spoken to are no longer comfortable using the library because of drug use in the bathrooms or other dangerous activities.

She said she had the family’s permission to post the video and she was not aware the guard had broken a rule by sharing it. She said the video showed a broader issue at the library: Families no longer feel safe there.

“It has turned into a mess, and people are fed up,” she said.

O’Malley said thousands of people go to the downtown library every month without issues, and the video clip isn’t an indicator that the library isn’t safe.

“It’s kind of the nature of public spaces,” he said. “Everybody’s welcome, and sometimes you get people’s behavior that does not mesh well with everybody else’s.”