(CN) – Two Kansas City police officers deserved to lose their jobs for failing to take a bleeding, pregnant woman to the hospital, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled. The officers had insisted the woman was simply having her period or was trying to avoid jail, but she delivered a premature baby the next day.
Melody Spencer and Kevin Schnell arrested Sophia Salva on suspicion of using a fake temporary license tag on her car.
Salva complained several times during the arrest that she was three months pregnant, bleeding and needed to see a doctor.
The officers had different diagnoses: Spencer said Salva was merely having her period and declined Salva’s invitation to check her underwear.
“It’s called a menstrual cycle. I understand. OK? ‘Cause I am a woman,” Spencer said.
Schnell believed that Salva had a case of “jailitis,” in which a suspect will invent a reason to go to the hospital to avoid incarceration.
Schnell asked Salva where she was originally from, and Salva replied that she was from the Sudan.
“If I was from Sudan and I did drugs, what kind of drugs would I do in Sudan?” she asked. “I’m just curious. Do you have drugs there? Do you like cocaine?”
Salva really was pregnant, and the next morning she delivered a premature baby who did not survive.
The police department fired the officers for failing to take Salva to the hospital, for the way they treated her, and for failing to recover the counterfeit tag.
The trial court upheld the firings, and the appeals court agreed in separate opinions: Schnell v. Zobrist and Spencer v. Zobrist.
“[I]t was within the board’s discretion to terminate [the officers] for violating the department policies by failing to seek medical help for Salva when she requested medical attention … and by treating Salva in a discourteous and undignified manner,” Judge James Welsh wrote.