Deaths in police custody draw scrutiny, lawsuits

Two cases, one in New York, one in California, highlight the high price of police brutality

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 21, 2013 8:20PM (EDT)


Two incidents -- one in New York and one in California -- highlight once again the dangers of police brutality in this country. On Monday the family of a woman who died in NYPD custody after she was denied medical detention three months ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Meanwhile, in Berkeley, Calif., the City of Berkeley Police Review Commission (PRC) Monday agreed to review a report on the death of a woman in police custody, which cites "police misconduct" as a lethal factor.

A release on the New York lawsuit over 37-year-old Kyam Livingston's death notes:

According to fellow inmates of Livingston, she became increasingly ill with stomach pains, diarrhea, and eventually convulsions over the course of seven hours while awaiting arraignment. Witnesses report that on-duty NYPD officers ignored Livingston and other inmates as they pleaded for someone to come to her aid. One witness, who is a registered nurse, indicated Livingston had been dead for 20 minutes before Emergency Medical Services finally arrived on the scene.

According to Livingston’s family members and supporters, the lawsuit is an important step, but it is far from enough. They demanded the names of the NYPD officers involved and the video of the filthy jail cell where she was held during the final painful hours of her life. They also called for changes to the conditions in Brooklyn Central Booking.

A release from the People's Investigation Report on the Berkeley incident claims that while police reports cited "drug toxicity" as the cause of Kayla Moore's death in February, "witnesses saw the police aggressively crush the woman. Up to six officers escalated the situation and restrained her with most of them using their full weight and strength though she was face down on a futon." Via the release:

The People’s Investigation has identified a number of city policies and BPD officers as having both played a role in the death of Kayla Moore and is eager to present these findings so that the people of this city can begin the work of healing. Members of the public are encouraged to share in this crucial conversation and to sign up for Public Comment. The People's Investigation Report is a thoroughly documented review of the documents, witness statements, dispatch records, police policies and trainings and other sources of information related to Moore's in-custody death in her own home.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Berkeley Death Kayla Moore Kyam Livingston Nypd Police Brutality Police Custody Wrongful Death