LIMA — The Lima Police Department is conducting an internal investigation after video surfaced on social media of a pregnant woman being forced to the ground and arrested Thursday.
At 6:07 p.m. Thursday, Kenyatta Secession, 32, of Lima, was approached by officers at the intersection of Broadway and Vine streets after being recognized for having three outstanding failure-to-appear warrants. According to Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin, she resisted arrest, during which time she went to the ground. She was also charged with obstructing official business, resisting arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia.
A video of the incident was posted to Facebook later that evening.
“Whether that force was reasonable or not is something that’s too premature for me to say,” Martin said. “We have not received a citizen’s complaint from Ms. Secession, but I’ve still ordered that an investigation be conducted into the matter.”
Martin said that Secession was taken by ambulance to Mercy Health-St. Rita’s. According to Mercy Health-St. Rita’s, Secession was no longer a patient as of this afternoon.
In determining whether the force used was justified, part of the investigation will involve whether Secession was forced to the ground. According to Martin, initial reports indicated that Secession fell to the ground.
Neither of the officers involved in the incident, Ptl. Matt Boss and Ptl. Brandon Stephenson, were wearing body cameras at the time of the incident, but Martin has ordered that cruiser camera footage be downloaded and saved in the hopes that any audio from the footage could aid in the investigation. The department has been testing various body cameras since January, trying to find the correct model for both taking video and storing footage. In responding to this incident, ministers from the Lima Area Black Ministerial Alliance said this highlights the need for body cameras and that the department must move faster to get them in use by patrol officers.
“We’ve been saying from day one that body cameras will not lie,” said the Rev. Cleven Jones of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. “It will tell the truth on both sides of the issue. So that’s our concern, that the police department get body cameras so, from start to finish, when these incidents happen, the community, as well as the police department, can have a full view of what actually happened.”
During a press conference Friday at Shiloh, several LABMA ministers voiced their concerns over the footage, including appearances of an officer putting his knee on Secession’s back while she was on the ground.
“Any time you have a woman who, from the video, looks like she weighs no more than 130 or 140 pounds and you’ve got two officers there who appear to be 200 pounds plus, you mean tell me that they can’t handcuff that woman standing up with the two of them versus her being slammed to the ground with a knee in her back?” the Rev. Arthur Butler of Providence Missionary Baptist Church said. “That’s uncalled for.”
Martin also requested that anyone with additional video footage of the incident send that footage to the department’s Facebook page via direct message. Jones also asked that any additional videos submitted to Lima Police also be sent to any LABMA-affiliated church.
Both Boss and Stephenson will remain on active duty during the investigation, according to Martin. Ministers from LABMA disagreed with that decision, saying that both officers should be off the streets until they are cleared of wrongdoing.
“The first thing the police chief should do is remove the officers from active duty,” Jones said. “At this point, until the investigation is complete, they should not be allowed to patrol the streets of Lima.”
Lima Mayor David Berger issued a statement on the incident Friday, saying, “As a father, grandfather and mayor of this city, I find the video disturbing, and my heart goes out to all those involved.”
“I have spoken with Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin, who has pledged an objective, thorough and fair investigation,” Berger said. “Further, I have asked Chief Martin to review departmental policies and practices regarding the arrest of pregnant women.”
The Lima NAACP refrained from issuing a statement pending an interview with Secession, which, according to unit president Ronald Fails, was scheduled for Friday evening.