Black New York Woman Settles Lawsuit After Police Allegedly Shackled Her While She Was In Active Labor
The court approved a $750,000 settlement for the woman and her baby.
April 23, 2021 at 10:52 pm
A Black woman in New York has settled a lawsuit with police and the city after filing a complaint in October, saying officers shackled her wrists and ankles for hours while she was in active labor.
The woman said she was 40 weeks and two days pregnant when police came to her home in 2018 and arrested her on a misdemeanor assault charge that happened a week earlier, CNN reported.
"The NYPD arresting officers knew that (she) was extremely pregnant, remarking on it to her as they took her into custody," the lawsuit stated. "There was no urgent need to arrest (her) that day."
According to the complaint, the expecting mother was held at a Brooklyn precinct for hours, then shackled to a gurney and taken in an ambulance to a hospital as the pain of her contractions became unbearable. The woman remained in shackles in the delivery room despite one nurse asking for them to be removed, the complaint stated.
Anonymously filing the suit against the city of New York and several New York Police Department officers, the plaintiff sought damages for emotional distress, as well as a violation of her civil rights, punitive damages, attorney fees and costs. The case was settled on Wednesday when a U.S. district magistrate judge for the Eastern District of New York approved a $750,000 settlement for the woman and her baby.
"The first breath that this baby had on this earth was one born out of violence. That was violence, what the NYPD did to her," attorney Anne Oredeko told CNN. "This lawsuit was meant as a way to give her some type of solace, but there's no repairing that — money will never repair that. And she cannot get that moment back."
The mother of two, who spoke to CNN anonymously, said she was handcuffed to a hospital bed, with only a nurse holding her hand, when she gave birth. She adds that she was taken to a hospital in a different part of the city, as opposed to the location where she planned to give birth. In addition, the woman said she gave birth without the presence of her baby's father, her family or the physician who had been taking care of her.
"That was not my birth plan. I felt like a failure to my unborn because that wasn't something that was planned for neither of us," the woman told CNN. "I just didn't feel like myself anymore after that. I feel like my memory got taken away. And still I'm in pain."
The plaintiff said she experienced contractions for hours as she was held at the Brooklyn precinct. Another woman who was in custody assisted the mother by helping her time the contractions, the lawsuit stated.
"It was a lady next to me in the next cell. She was talking to me the whole time, she was hearing me in pain. She kept timing it for me," the woman told CNN. "But everybody was at a Christmas party and nobody was to be found — to the point of where I basically got attention (only) on the next shift. That really made me feel like they didn't care."
One female officer who finally tended to the mother allegedly told her to lay down on a holding cell bench and remove her pants and undergarments so she could her "vaginal area."
"I felt disgusted because I'm in a dirty jail cell and an officer says I need to lay on something, so she could look in my private area to see if my baby is coming," the woman said.
According to the lawsuit, another officer refused to remove the shackles as the woman was being taken to the hospital, but only obliged when nurses said the handcuffs were preventing the mother from receiving an epidural. The plaintiff said she struggled to breastfeed her baby as she was handcuffed again after giving birth.
In a similar case, another woman sued the NYPD in 2018, saying she was forced to wear handcuffs on her wrists and ankles during labor. The mother, identified with a pseudonym name in the complaint, said police removed the handcuffs after doctors became outraged, ABC News reported.
"Moments before Ms. Doe delivered her daughter, a growing chorus of outraged doctors convinced the NYPD to briefly remove her shackles. At 6:14 a.m., Jane Doe gave birth to her daughter. Shortly after she gave birth, NYPD officers again shackled her, ignoring the doctors’ continued pleas. Ms. Doe struggled to feed her new baby with one arm," the lawsuit states.
The NYPD Patrol Guide now instructs officers to restrain pregnant women "in the least restrictive manner possible." The directive adds that a person who has been detained and is in labor should not be handcuffed or restrained.
"A pregnant prisoner in labor shall not be handcuffed or restrained in any manner, and will only be handcuffed or restrained post-delivery upon the existence of exceptional circumstances," the guidance states. "Exceptional circumstances regarding the appropriate level of restraint will be determined by the immediate supervisor on a case by case basis."