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Spokane City Council president bags office security camera | News

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Spokane City Council president bags office security camera
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Spokane City Council president bags office security camera

Most everywhere you go in Spokane, security installations on buildings and businesses can document where you go, including Spokane City Hall. Some city officials find the added security a little unnerving.

They were installed last January from a 2009 grant awarded by Homeland Security. The grant awarded $44,843.78 to install 24 additional security cameras in City Hall including city council’s 7th floor offices. After learning the cameras were recently activated council president Ben Stuckart wasn’t sure who was watching the footage, so he took extra precautions. He put a plastic bag over it.

“I didn’t know until I put a bag over it to know who was watching it. [Security] came up in ten minutes,” Stuckart said.

Security assured Stuckart that the cameras were pointed toward the office entrance and only showed the back of their heads. The only people watching are the 1st floor security officers who arrived to the 7th floor within ten minutes after noticing something blocking the camera’s view.

City spokesperson Marlene Feist says the council has every right to stick a bag over a camera if they want to, but the only challenge is security may not be alerted as quickly of a problem in their offices.

“Those cameras are generally used by our security staff to keep an eye on what’s happening,” Feist said.

Compared to Spokane County’s administrative building, City Hall lacks the intricate levels of security. There are no metal detectors, just a front desk that requires visitors to sign in and place a badge on their person.

“We don’t have a lot of security in this building. There are two unarmed security officers that patrol the building that keep us safe,” Feist said.

When Stuckart defended his decision to bag the camera, he cited personal privacy as his driven reason. He can see the camera from where he sits at his desk. If you can see the camera, can it see you?

“Are they watching the whole office or just the front doors? Nobody can tell us,“ Stuckart said. “Two people up front felt like they were being watched the whole time. They weren’t comfortable with it. I’m okay with the security measures that are in the building.”

Stuckart says the current city council hasn’t experienced any security issues this year, but in past years, City Hall has had its share of aggressive activity. Feist says there have been challenges in public meetings. She recalled a man slamming a hatchet on a desk and staff calling 911 over a scuffle in Neighborhood Services.

“Cameras are everywhere. People are captured all the time as they walk down the street,” Feist said. “We’re not doing anything with this video unless it’s asked for by police.”

The cameras do record footage, but it’s eventually purged. Feist says the recorded footage came in handy when security cameras taped a man slamming a dog into the pavement in front of City Hall back in 2009.

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