The Progressive Caucus is outraged by the actions of the NYPD and HRA leading to the arrest of Jazmine Headley, a woman of color and a mother that was seeking the City’s services at a Human Resources Administration (HRA) center. There is no excuse for the behavior of officers arresting Headley and prying her 1-year old son from her hands. It is also unacceptable that HRA and its peace officers chose to escalate the situation by calling on law enforcement to forcibly remove this mother, who was waiting for an appointment.
As we release this statement, Jazmine is still being held at Rikers. As Members of the Progressive Caucus, we will be working with other city officials to get to the bottom of how this travesty was allowed to occur in the first place, and how to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
The Progressive Caucus issues the following preliminary recommendations regarding this incident:
- New York City needs to significantly improve its treatment of clients at HRA centers. The administration should require social workers onsite at all HRA centers and mandate the provision of trauma-informed training for all staff and contracted security working onsite.
- The City must also investigate the HRA peace officer program and how it functions, including HRA officers’ use of force. Rather than de-escalating the situation, HRA peace officers unnecessarily escalated the situation by bringing in law enforcement, and then were visibly involved in using force to arrest Jazmine (as shown in the video).
- Overcrowding, wait times, and backlogs are a serious issue at HRA centers, preventing people from getting basic services in a reasonable manner, including food to take care of their families. Instead of closing down centers (HRA closed two SNAP centers in Brooklyn in September), the City needs to heavily invest in HRA centers to disseminate timely and effective services.
- The City must adequately fund prevention programs that work. This incident again highlights the importance of investment in programs to support parents trying to access services. Pre-petition parental advocacy, in particular, is a needed priority to connect parents to services and support, rather than leaving them at risk of incarceration.
- The City must make a real commitment to make de-escalation a priority for security purposes, and shift the responsibility of handling non-violent emergency or non-emergency situations away from law enforcement. Law enforcement should also be further trained in de-escalation tactics.
While this is just a preliminary list of our recommendations for the City, we will continue to work to develop further recommendations to address this disturbing incident. We also acknowledge that the decisions made by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and presiding judge caused Jazmine’s child to be taken away from her through a stay-away order of protection, further criminalizing Jazmine and traumatizing her child. We will continue to fight for progressive solutions to these huge problems in the child protective services, courts, and criminal justice system.