Two police officers were suspended indefinitely with pay Thursday as an investigation continued into their arrest of a pregnant woman who had a miscarriage a day after she was thrown in jail.
The suspensions came two days after police released a videotape showing Sofia Salva telling officers during her arrest last year that she was three months pregnant, bleeding and needed to go to a hospital.
The tape shows officers ignoring her pleas. After the ninth request, the tape shows, a female officer asked: "How is that my problem?"
The officers' behavior is "inconsistent with the values and policies of this department and inconsistent with the training they received in the police academy," Chief James Corwin said at a news conference Thursday.
Salva, 32, has sued officers Melody Spencer and Kevin Schnell and the police department for wrongful death and personal injuries. Salva is seeking actual damages exceeding $25,000 and punitive damages.
She was arrested February 5 and held overnight on traffic violations and outstanding city warrants. After being released the next morning, she delivered a premature baby boy who died immediately after birth, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Corwin said he felt the incident was serious enough to suspend the officers even though an internal investigation is not complete.
"I ask for patience from the community as we investigate this incident," Corwin said. "I regret that this incident has reflected negatively on the members of this department, the vast majority of whom do their job in an exemplary fashion every day."
Corwin read from a written statement and declined further comment, citing the lawsuit.
Salva's attorney, Andrew Protzman, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
On Wednesday, he said, "It's tragic, it's disappointing, it's frustrating, it's sickening at times."
"This is a lady who was in severe medical distress and clearly needed emergency medical attention and medical treatment."
The videotape was released to the media after The Kansas City Star requested it under Missouri's open records law.
The officers stopped Salva after they saw her placing a fake temporary tag on the back window of her car.
'I want to go to the hospital'
The tape shows Salva telling the officers she is having a miscarriage and is bleeding.
On the tape, an officer identified as Schnell walks away from the car and tells his partner: "She just gave me a line of excuses. She said she's bleeding. She said you can check her."
Salva said: "I'm three months pregnant and I'm bleeding."
The officer identified as Spencer replied: "OK. Why are you driving to the store and then putting a fake temporary tag in your car?"
"I took it because I want to go to the hospital," Salva said.
The officers made Salva sit on the curb while they searched her car, purse and grocery bags.
Salva again told the officers she was bleeding and needed to go to a hospital.
"Well," Spencer said, "that will be something you can take care of when we get done with you."
The officers handcuffed Salva after learning she had outstanding warrants for mistreatment of children, trespassing and several traffic violations.
She again told Schnell she was bleeding.
"I don't doubt that you're possibly bleeding, but you got a lot more problems with us," Schnell said.
No tapes were available of Salva's time in the jail, but she contends in the lawsuit that her continued pleas for help were ignored. The department said videotapes from that period had been recycled before it became aware of Salva's claims.
Story courtesy of the Associated Press.
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