Kansas City, Mo. Two Kansas City police officers will be fired for failing to get medical treatment for a pregnant suspect who later miscarried, the Board of Police Commissioners ruled Friday.
The board's five members, which include Mayor Mark Funkhouser, unanimously agreed to back up Police Chief James Corwin's recommendation to fire officers Melody Spencer and Kevin Schnell.
The rulings say that the officers showed "a dangerous lack of concern for public health and safety" during the February 2006 traffic stop. They also say that the officers don't have "the judgment necessary to appropriately interpret and apply" the department's policy for dealing with suspects in need of medical help.
The police chief doesn't have the authority to fire officers, but police commissioners are authorized to do so under state law. The firings are effective Feb. 7, 2007, the day that both officers were placed on unpaid suspension.
Attorney Luke Harkins, who represents Spencer, said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the board's decisions. He said it's not clear whether the officers will appeal. They could take the matter to Jackson County Circuit Court and have a judge review the decisions.
A Kansas City police spokesman said neither Corwin nor the department would comment on the decision. Police board president Karl Zobrist said he did not think it would be appropriate for him to comment at this time and that the decisions speak for themselves.
Spencer and Schnell stopped Sofia Salva in February 2006 for having a fake temporary car tag. During the stop, Salva repeatedly told the officers she was pregnant, bleeding and needing to go to the hospital. The officers wouldn't take her though, and they didn't call an ambulance. They arrested her on outstanding warrants, mostly for traffic offenses.
Salva, who was almost four months pregnant, miscarried the next morning after spending the night in jail. One jail worker was fired; another got a warning.
The incident gained national attention last year when Salva sued police and the video of her arrest was released.
"We've said all along that the board made up its mind as soon as the media attention was drawn to this incident after the release of the video," Harkins said. "They threw the officers under the bus for political reasons."
In following the chief's recommendation, the police board ignored the rulings of two retired judges who oversaw disciplinary hearings for the officers and determined that the officers should be allowed to return to work and given back pay.
The debate has centered on whether Spencer and Schnell knowingly violated police department policy, which says: "Officers will procure transportation for a sick or injured person when requested or appropriate."