New York City will pay $750,000 to a Manhattan woman who says that NYPD officers kept her in handcuffs while she was in labor, subjected her to a “humiliating” vaginal exam inside a precinct, and then insisted that she remain shackled after giving birth to her son.
The settlement is the second of its kind involving the NYPD’s treatment of a Black pregnant woman in just two years. At a daily briefing on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio described the incident as “inhumane,” but declined to say if any of the officers involved should face discipline. Under the terms of the agreement, the city and the police department admit no wrongdoing.
According to the lawsuit, the unnamed 22-year-old was two days past her due date when NYPD officers arrested her on a charge related to a family dispute, which was later dismissed and sealed. She was taken to the 75th precinct in Brooklyn, where she went into labor inside a holding cell. At the time, the officers were in the middle of a holiday party, and offered the woman a plate of Chinese food, but no water, the complaint alleges.
At one point, a white officer, Barbara Kulick, allegedly entered the cell and performed a “humiliating” vaginal inspection on the young woman. She “callously told [the woman] that she was ‘crowning,'” the suit claims, then joked that she could have her baby inside the precinct.
The young mother was then transported to a hospital, while handcuffed to a gurney. She was accompanied by Officer Christopher Mcaleese, who allegedly refused to remove the restraints, even as she cried out in severe pain.
When they got to the hospital, “at least one nurse asked Officer Mcaleese to remove the handcuffs, but he refused, asserting that he was just following an unspecified ‘protocol’ and was just ‘doing his job,'” according to the suit.
The woman, still in labor, remained handcuffed to the bed inside the delivery room, until nurses convinced the officer that the handcuffs were preventing them from administering an epidural. By that point, the NYPD had allegedly informed the woman’s family that they needed to obtain a “permission letter” from the 75th precinct in order to enter the room, depriving them of being present during the birth.
Hours after she delivered her son, another officer entered the room and demanded the woman be shackled once again, forcing her “to feed her son using just one arm,” according to the suit. That officer, Deyonca Richards, allegedly told a nurse the restraints were necessary because she feared getting in trouble with her superiors.
The NYPD did not respond to specific questions about the officers’ actions, but pointed Gothamist to the department’s disciplinary database. None of the six officers identified in the lawsuit — including Kulick — have received discipline, according to the database.
The case recalled another 2018 incident, in which a Bronx woman was shackled by NYPD officers while in labor. A lawsuit in that instance led to a $610,000 settlement, and an agreement from the NYPD to adopt a new set of rules for arresting pregnant woman.
But Anne Oredeko, an attorney for the Manhattan woman, noted that the department’s patrol guide still affords officers wide latitude in determining when and if a pregnant woman can be restrained. She told Gothamist that she had “no confidence that there are enough protections to ensure that this would never happen again.”
“The NYPD can do horrific things to individuals and still not admit any wrongdoing,” Oredeko added. “These police did not see the life of a Black woman as something sacred to protect.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said they were looking into the matter.