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Kansas City Police Officers' Arrest of Pregnant Woman Sparks Outrage

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR.org
Troy Robertson, the founder of Prospect Peace, tells local social justice advocates and media about Thursday night's events at the intersection of Prospect Avenue and 35th Street where a pregnant woman was arrested and kneeled on by police.

Social justice activists held a news conference, decrying a Kansas City police officer's arrest of a pregnant woman caught on videotape.

A video of Kansas City police officers arresting a pregnant woman has sparked outrage from community members.

The NAACP, KC Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Police Accountability Task Force came together Friday to call on the Kansas City Police Department to take action against the officers involved in the arrest.

“We are here today to express our outrage, and yet another incident of excessive force on behalf of the Kansas City Police Department, with the incident that occurred a few days ago here at 35th and Prospect,” said Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

In the controversial video, Deja Stallings, 25, is seen being handcuffed on the ground with an officer kneeling on her back.

The police department has since released a surveillance video of the 30 minutes leading up to the arrest. Kansas City police spokesman Capt. Dave Jackson said Thursday that security for a business located at 35th Street and Prospect Avenue called the police about a group of people fighting Wednesday night.

He said officers tried to arrest a man for refusing to leave, when Stallings and another man interfered. Jackson said the officer tried to arrest her standing but had to take Stallings to the ground after she resisted.

Jackson said the officer kept his weight on his foot and did not apply pressure from his knee on her back.

“We take great care in order to avoid injury or exacerbating the situation. We understand the emotions of dealing with anybody from children or pregnant people or disabled people,” said Jackson.

The department says that Stallings was arrested for hindering arrest was then evaluated and released from a hospital.

Civil rights attorney Stacy Shaw, who is representing Stallings, says she was participating in a balloon release vigil when she was arrested.

Shaw says her client is now experiencing complications from her injuries and has difficulty walking.

“On Wednesday the police department not only failed to protect and serve, but brutalized one of the most protected and at-risk classes of people in this country and that's pregnant women,” said Shaw.

City launches crime prevention effort

She says the incident came only 12 hours after Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Police Chief Richard Smith and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker revealed a new crime prevention plan at City Hall.

Gwen Grant, president of the Kansas City Urban League, says the community has lost trust in the mayor and police department, and says she needs to see substantial action from both.

“There is no time to sit down and talk about collaboration and reform with Rick Smith and Mayor Lucas. You can't talk about fixing the community when you're not gonna fix the corrupt, violent police department that is supposed to be protecting and serving us,” said Grant.

Calls to defund the police and remove Smith as police chief began during the summer following protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The coalition of civil rights groups says not only are they going to continue to demand Smith’s resignation but also for the termination of the officer involved in Stallings’ arrest.

“This brutality and lawlessness against our community must cease and desist immediately. In order to do this, the first step is the dismissal of Chief Rick Smith who oversees the pattern of abuse, excessive force, lack of transparency and accountability,” said Kevin Wolf of the local chapter of the SCLC.

Shaw says she will file a formal complaint and pursue legal remedies on behalf of her client and any others who were brutalized by officers on Wednesday.

The Kansas City Police Department said it would continue to investigate the incident, but it is too early to determine if there was any misconduct.