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Salt Lake library safety officer on leave after altercation with patron

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Posted - Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:05 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Public Library officials are investigating an apparent altercation that occurred Wednesday evening between a library safety officer and a patron at the downtown branch.

About 7 p.m. Wednesday, the patron was “interfering with other patrons' use of the library” and had violated the library’s code of conduct, according to library Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Quinn Smith.

The patron had damaged library property, used foul language and engaged in disruptive activity, which are violations of the code of conduct, Smith said.

The person was asked to leave the building, but the situation escalated after that, according to Smith. She did not elaborate further on how exactly it escalated, saying the incident was in the middle of an investigation.

A video posted to Twitter shows the patron yelling at the safety officer while some of his belongings are on the ground in the atrium area on the ground floor of the library.

The safety officer then picks up two of the items and throws them at the man, the video shows.

The man then sprays a bottle of water on the ground and says “that’s assault” several times before exiting the doors on the west side of the atrium, the video shows. The safety officer follows him outside, followed by a second safety officer, but what happens outside is unclear in the video.

A second video posted by the same Twitter user shows blood spattered on the sidewalk outside the library.

“The safety of our patrons is our number one priority,” Smith said in an emailed statement. “We have taken pride in our staff and safety officers’ abilities to regularly deescalate unhealthy, uncomfortable, and at times, dangerous situations. … That being said, this incident has revealed the need to provide further training and support for our safety officers, in addition to the de-escalation training already in place."

Salt Lake City Public Library officials are investigating an apparent altercation that occurred Wednesday evening between a library safety officer and a patron at the downtown branch. (Photo: Twitter, @madalenamcneil)

The library opened an investigation immediately upon learning of the incident, and officials are re-assessing all of the library's security measures, Smith said.

A total of three safety officers, who are all employees of the library, were involved. One of the officers has been placed on administrative leave until the library’s investigation is completed, Smith added.

“This incident is incredibly disheartening and upsetting, especially when we know the commitment that our safety officers make day in and out to foster a safe environment for all of our patrons,” Smith continued. “This job is much more involved and emotionally tolling than most security roles are. Our team is not sitting behind closed walls watching security tapes. They are working side-by-side with some of our most vulnerable populations. People who have been let down by the system may need additional support, and may need full-time care.”

Smith could not comment on whether the patron was arrested or taken into custody. The patron was not identified.

Salt Lake City police were not called to the library Wednesday evening, according to Sgt. Keith Horrocks.

Further information about the incident was not available Thursday.

Photos

Jacob Klopfenstein

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