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Pregnant and handcuffed:

One example of how we’re losing liberty on our streets

Jimmy Breslin

Sunday, May 8th 2011, 4:00 AM

Over 970,000 drivers were stopped last year by police with many of those stops dictated by the driver's race.

She is driving down Miller Ave. in East New York, which is in Brooklyn, a street of two-story houses, a pleasant scene except that while the city has huge interest in our killing of somebody in the Middle East, we are losing liberty on our streets without great notice.

There were 976,420 drivers stopped by police last year. It is a horrible thought that race has something to do with it.

The former Jennifer Battista is a Dominican young lady with large beautiful dark eyes. This is about 10 days ago and she is driving from her job, a good job in a big hospital, driving to meet her husband and go home. She is 26 and has two children at home with their grandmother.

“Pull over,” the cop’s voice comes over a loudspeaker. The police car was suddenly behind her. Moving to the curb, she went over her driving record and didn’t recall any problem.

It was 6 o’clock at the start of an evening that had some beginnings of fog. The police in their car couldn’t see her.

“Do not get out of the car.”

Jennifer describes: The two cops were out of their car. One was white and his partner was Latino. The white walked up and she handed out her license, registration and insurance card. The cop took them back to his car. He returned.

“Step out,” he told her.

“Why?”

“Step out.”

“Oh,” she remembered. She had a summons for speeding and missed the last payment. A hundred fifty. That’s the problem, she decided.

She slid out of the seat.

“I forgot the last payment.”

“You need to turn around,” the cop said.

“Why? I just forgot.”

“I have to take you in,” the cop said.

At first she thought it was some implausible moment that dissolves.

“You have to turn around. Hands on the car.”

He guided her hands to be on the car. She remembers his hands going into her black coat pockets as if for a gun.

“Can’t you see I’m pregnant?”

The first thing he found was a midsection that was finishing its fifth month of pregnancy. This will be her third child.

“I told you I am pregnant,” she said again.

Then he found a cell phone. He felt blessed. At least he had something to show. He had her get her hands behind her back. He handcuffed her.

“I can’t even run like this. I have a baby coming and I’m in handcuffs.”

“You have to see a judge.”

“A judge? When? The court is over now. I sit all night.”

He guided her back to the police car and told her to get in.

Now she started to cry. A young, very pregnant woman is upset and she realizes she couldn’t cry with handcuffs on. She couldn’t wipe her eyes.

To fit Jennifer in the narrow backseat the cop took her legs and brought them up on the seat to fit.

Now she was cornered, handcuffed and trembling. And going on a ride to the 75th Precinct, where she and her baby can sit in a cell until daylight and a ride to court to see the judge.

She spoke to her husband while the cop had her cell phone and she called out the number and the cop held the phone to Jennifer’s mouth.

She remained handcuffed. She wanted to cry so hard. She felt like a criminal.

The husband tried to understand. “Could something real bad happen?” He was frantic. So was she.

“You have to come here and get me,” she said to her husband in a broken voice.

Now the cops said they had to go outside. They stood and talked over the situation, which was not good. You can’t just throw her into a cell for the night and a lawyer might show up, or some guys in the stationhouse could start saying what are you doing to that woman, you’re going to put a miscarriage on us.

The white cop came back to her and removed the handcuffs. “Get home safely.” He and his partner split, running away with their names.

She got in her car and started to cry. She met her husband and walked into the house and tried hiding this from her children, this crying from handcuffs whose cold metal was running right through to her insides and she could feel its cold touch on her pregnancy.

jbreslin@nydailynews.com

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