The NYPD and the Legal Aid Society agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a 22-year-old woman whom police officers kept shackled in December 2018 as she gave birth to her son.
The woman, identified only as “Jane Doe,” was more than 40 weeks pregnant when officers from the 9th Precinct arrested her in Manhattan on the morning of Dec. 17, 2018 in connection with a recent altercation between her mother’s then-boyfriend.
That began a 24-hour legal odyssey in which Jane Doe was shuttled back and forth between court, the 9th Precinct and Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct — where she finally went into labor while in a holding cell as officers there enjoyed a holiday party, according to the lawsuit.
Paramedics brought her to Kings County Hospital, but officers kept her shackled as she delivered her son.
According to the lawsuit, the new mother was kept restrained even after giving birth, complicating her efforts to feed her child. When her child wound up in the hospitals Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the suit noted, police required Jane Doe to be shackled while she visited the ward to check on her baby.
Adding insult to injury, the charges for which she was restrained were ultimately dismissed, the Legal Aid Society noted.
“Shackling pregnant people is a dehumanizing and pointless practice that has no place in New York City,” said Anne Oredeko, supervising attorney of the Legal Aid Society’s Racial Justice Unit. “All New Yorkers should be appalled that the NYPD continues to fail people giving birth at one of the most important and vulnerable moments in their lives, and I am outraged at how this practice consistently targets Black and Latinx women and people who give birth for treatment no one deserves.”
The settlement awards Jane Doe $750,000 for her ordeal. Under the terms of the agreement, the NYPD pledged to conduct roll call training of all officers on its policies regarding restraining pregnant women.
“At the state level, New York Correction Law Section 611 outlaws the use of restraints ‘of any kind’ on women admitted to the hospital for delivery or recovering after giving birth — but the NYPD still refuses to ban these practices,” said Katherine Rosenfeld, partner at Emery Celli LLP, which assisted in the case. “Jane Doe is a fierce champion for justice, and we urge the City Council to take up her efforts, change the local laws on shackling pregnant people, and force the NYPD to finally ban handcuffing women who are about to give birth, or who have just brought a child into the world.”
The lawsuit, initially filed at the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, cited four similar lawsuits filed against the NYPD between 2015 and 2018 regarding the restraint of pregnant New Yorkers.
Asked at his Thursday morning briefing about the settlement, Mayor Bill de Blasio thought the woman was treated inhumanely, and that he doesn’t believe “that should ever happen again.”
“I think, in terms of any discipline issues, I gotta get briefed on what happened,” de Blasio said regarding the officers named in the lawsuit, including Detective Michael Franco and Police Officers Michael Garcia, Barbara Kulick, Christopher McAleese, Deyonca Richards, Maximo Agront and Muhammad Ali.
amNewYork Metro reached out to the NYPD for comment, which declined to comment and instead referred us to the Law Department.