Kansas City police arrest of pregnant woman criticized

Posted at 2:14 PM, October 5, 2020 and last updated 8:51 PM, June 14, 2023


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Videos of a Kansas City police officer kneeling on a pregnant Black woman while arresting her have led to calls for the officer involved to be fired and reignited demands that the police chief resign.

The videos show the woman on the ground with the officer’s knee on her back while people in the crowd yell to stop because she is pregnant. Some officers can be heard telling the crowd they will be arrested if they don’t move back.

Kevin Woolfolk, director of membership engagement for The Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Greater Kansas City, said the videos showed another example of how badly Kansas City police treat the Black community.

“This most recent act of brutality is shameful and is further evidence that the Kansas City police department is wholly infected with the sin of racism and grossly incapable of protecting the peace and safety of the public where Black lives are concerned,” Woolfolk said at a news conference Friday.

Police and a lawyer for the woman told different versions of what happened during the confrontation Wednesday night at a business in east Kansas City.

The woman’s lawyer, Stacy Shaw, said the woman was attending a balloon release for a homicide victim at an intersection that has been the scene of civil justice and anti-crime demonstrations for years.

The woman was filming the event and complained when an officer backed into her. The officer responded by pushing the woman and then throwing her to the ground and arresting her, Shaw said.

Kansas City police spokesman Capt. David Jackson said in a statement Thursday officers went to the scene after a business owner reported people were fighting.

He said the women in the video and a man interfered with officers trying to arrest another man. The officer tried to arrest the woman while she was standing but placed her on the ground when she continued to resist, Jackson said. The officer said he tried not to put pressure on the woman’s back while arresting her, according to the statement.

Jackson said Friday police do not comment on personnel issues and did not respond to a question about calls for Smith’s firing.

Civil rights leaders ridiculed that version of events Friday at a news conference and said the videos show the woman was not resisting.

Troy Robertson, who has led demonstrations for peace at the intersection, said he was the one police were trying to arrest. He said police have beaten him several times over the years because of his demonstrations.

Robertson said when the woman asked why police were arresting him, people started yelling that she was pregnant and the officer reacted by throwing her on the ground.

“Why (does) nothing ever happen to them when they are wrong, but if I’m wrong I go to jail,” Robertson said. “… I’m tired. Something gotta give. When these officers are wrong, hold them accountable for what they are doing.”

The woman was evaluated at a hospital and released but was in extreme pain, Shaw said, adding she was checked Friday by an obstetrician and the baby seemed to be fine.

“This is another example of the lack of humanity that the Kansas City police department has shown to the Black community,” Shaw said in an interview. “It’s another instance of how people in our community have suffered at the hands of Chief Rick Smith and officers of the police department … There is no justification, there is no excuse and we will be holding the officers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Civil rights advocates have been calling for Smith’s resignation or firing for months, particularly after clashes during demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Smith has said he has no intention of resigning.

Shaw and Woolfolk were joined at the news conference by representatives of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the AdHoc Group Against Crime, the local NAACP chapter, and the Police Accountability Taskforce calling for justice and Smith’s firing.

The groups also strongly criticized Mayor Quinton Lucas, saying he has not responded forcefully enough to complaints about the police department and Smith’s leadership.

Lucas said at a different event Friday that Smith is investigating the arrest and then he and city officials will determine the proper response to be fair to everyone involved. He said the incident doesn’t change his view of the chief’s employment but that everyone in city leadership can do better in improving relationships and communication with the public.

Police released a video Friday that shows people standing between officers and Robertson, who runs out of the frame. The arrest of the woman is not shown on video, which jumps to when she is on the ground.