After lawsuit, NYPD sets new rules for handling pregnant women under arrest
The department amended the Patrol Guide after a lawsuit alleging officers treated a pregnant suspect 'inhumanely'
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — The NYPD has new rules for handling pregnant women under arrest — but a lawyer for a woman who sued over her treatment says the changes don’t go far enough.
The revision to the police Patrol Guide prohibits the use of leg shackles at all times on pregnant prisoners. It instead requires pregnant women to be handcuffed behind their backs unless there is a medical emergency or doing so is not practical. Then a supervisor should step in to determine what to do, the guide says.
Factoring in safety concerns, the chance of escape and the woman’s behavior — and if she appears to be in labor — the supervisor can order handcuffs be used in front of the woman’s body or to use one cuff to restrain her to a stationary post, such as a bed rail, with the other hand left free.
If a woman goes into labor while under arrest, cops are now told they should step outside the delivery room and all restraints should be removed.
Last July, the city agreed to pay a 28-year-old Bronx woman $610,000 to settle a federal lawsuit accusing police of inhumane treatment after she was arrested five months earlier for a domestic incident involving her ex-husband.
The woman went into labor, spending most of it in handcuffs and leg shackles, in violation of state law, including when she arrived at Montefiore Medical Center, according to her lawsuit, which identifies her as Jane Doe.
With doctors screaming at police, her shackles were removed long enough for her to give birth to a girl, then were put back on, according to court papers.
“They didn’t know anything about the law,” the woman told the Daily News, “though the doctors tried to tell them.”
Officers contended they were just following policy, but in settling the case the NYPD agreed to amend the Patrol Guide. The new rules, which went into effect Jan. 29, are a “step in the right direction,” the woman said,
But her lawyer, Katherine Rosenfeld, said she is troubled the revised guide still allows restraints to be used on pregnant women in “exceptional circumstances” and that supervisors still might have cops stay in the delivery room or have women restrained in some way right after giving birth.
Rosenfeld, with the firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, said safety concerns should be met with extra cops not handcuffs and that he NYPD has ignored the absence of any data indicating pregnant arrestees are a flight risk.
The new rules are too ambiguous and don’t fully consider first the health of the woman, Rosenfeld added.
“Instead of using state law as a baseline, the Patrol Guide language seems to have been made out of thin air, without any reference to best practices,” Rosenfeld said. “The NYPD seems to have fabricated a totally nonexistent problem – pregnant arrestees escaping – and asked someone who knows nothing about the subject to draft something.”