New York, NY — On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Speaker Corey Johnson and Public Advocate Tish James joined the New York City Progressive Caucus, as well as the Women’s Caucus, members of the Black, Latino/a and Asian Caucus (BLAC), Brooklyn Defender Services, and Communities United for Police Reform, to express outrage at the arrest of Jazmine Headley and demand #JusticeForJazmine. NYPD and HRA officers arrested Headley and pried her 1-year old son from her hands. It is 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 services.
A few hours after this rally, the Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Craig Walker granted Brooklyn Defenders Services’ motion to have Jazmine Headley released on her own recognizance. She should be released tonight. We join the Brooklyn Defender Services in calling for Mercer County to dismiss pending charges against Jazmine. We also recognize that while Jazmine has been released from incarceration, #JusticeforJazmine is far from over. We will continue fighting for the decriminalization of poverty and reforms with HRA and law enforcement, as listed in our recommendations below.
“What happened to Jazmine Headley is unacceptable and appalling. I saw that video and I felt heartbroken for that mother and baby – and furious that it was happening in our city. It’s a short video, but it shows so much of what is wrong with our system. We also have an obligation to help Jazmine, which is why we are here today. Thank you to the Progressive Caucus and the advocates their ongoing efforts, and together we will fight for change so tragedies like this never happen again,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“What happened to Jazmine Headley is appalling and unacceptable. There is no excuse for this type of force when she was simply trying to access benefits she’s entitled to,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “This incident reveals glaring issues in our city’s social services system, and as Chair of the General Welfare committee, I will be investigating further. New York City needs answers when it comes to the wait times and case backlogs at HRA offices, the role of peace officers, accommodations for people with children, and training of staff on de-escalation and trauma-informed care. We owe it to Jazmine and all families who rely on social services.”
“As a mother, as a Black mother, I am devastated by what I witnessed in the video of Jazmine Headley being arrested at an HRA office while holding onto her young child,” says City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo, Member of the BLAC and Women’s Caucus. “That is not how anyone in our City should be treated, and we must demand answers, accountability, and a new course of action for how these situations will be handled going forward. Jazmine Headley came to receive support and instead ended up in Rikers and separated from her child. We must make sure they are reunited, and ensure that this type of trauma is not afflicted on any parent or child in this situation again.”
“It was so deeply upsetting to watch Jazmine Headley cling to her child while those sworn to protect her wrenched her baby from her arms. This unacceptable and disgusting behavior from HRA and the NYPD will sadly continue to erode the trust New Yorkers put in our government agencies to help those in need,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus and Member of the Progressive Caucus and BLAC. “The city must release Jazmine from Rikers immediately and return her to her child. And once she begins to recover from this traumatic incident, she deserves an apology from this city’s leaders for how she was treated.”
“The video speaks for itself, no child should be ripped out of the hands of their mother. This was a traumatic experience for everyone involved that could have been avoided,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “I hope the ongoing investigation gets to the bottom of why this happened the way it did so nothing like this ever happens again. We all have to be really committed to de-escalation and not letting non-emergencies turn into violent incidents.”
“The deplorable treatment of Jazmine Headley and her child by NYPD and HRA officials is beyond understanding,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams, Vice Co-Chair of the BLAC and Member of the Progressive Caucus and Women’s Caucus. “The fact that this bad behavior was carried out by women sworn to protect and serve is especially disturbing to me. The lack of sheer humanity shown to this young mother is unconscionable and will not be tolerated.”
“Last weekend’s appalling incident exposed a harmful dysfunction in the operations of our City’s social service facilities and lack of compassion towards the working families visiting them in expectation of receiving a helping hand,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Co-Chair of BLAC, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “The obsession with detaining Ms. Headley recklessly endangered her infant son as well as the witnesses present, and HRA, FJC, and the NYPD are fortunate it didn’t result in a loss of life. The City is obligated to make the process of applying for public assistance at its centers less burdensome by providing adequate seating and taking steps to ensure waiting periods are reasonable. It must also employ trained security staff capable of diffusing a dispute by showing empathy instead of aggression. I expect the HRA peace officers, FJC security, and NYPD officers witnessed ripping young Damone from his mother’s arms and pointing a Taser at the crowd to be held accountable for their conduct. My Council colleagues and I will work to ensure the City implements changes in policy that will be essential to keep this catastrophe from ever reoccurring.”
“Treating people seeking benefits like lepers, ripping children from their mothers to force compliance, detaining people for days without due process — these are ICE-level tactics which sadly continue to be used against poor, working class, people of color in this country every day,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Progressive Caucus Vice-Chair for Civic Engagement and Member of the BLAC. “What is devastating about Jazmine Headley’s arrest and detention is how normal it is even for New York City. And the tragedy is only exacerbated by the realization that after a two-month effort to mobilize New Yorkers to protect immigrant access to public benefits, our HRA centers are doing little to make this process appealing. Much needs to change, but right now, Jazmine needs to be freed from this miscarriage of justice and reunited with her child.”
“There is no excuse for the behavior exhibited and what happened in the HRA office over the weekend,” said Council Member Keith Powers, Progressive Caucus Vice-Chair for Budget Advocacy Vice-Chair for Budget Advocacy. “Between HRA and the NYPD there were operational failures that lead to Jazmine Headley being separated from her one-year-old child and held on Rikers Island. This is not only a severe overreaction but an extreme example of how someone can so quickly become entangled in the justice system without much clarity as to why. I look forward to the outcome of the pending investigation and how we can work as a city to course correct.”
“Jazmine Headley’s only crime is one of poverty. New York City failed her. What happened last week is a stark reminder of the indignities and injustices that low-income New Yorkers are forced to endure. It is imperative that we get to the bottom of the institutional failures that led to HRA’s and the NYPD’s actions, and hold to account all responsible. At the very least, both HRA staff and NYPD officers should receive appropriate training on de-escalation and anger management. A full review should also be conducted of how New Yorkers are treated when they visit HRA centers. I agree wholeheartedly with Speaker Johnson: Jazmine Headley should be released from Rikers Island immediately; the order of protection should be rescinded, and she should be reunited with her child,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Women and Member of the Progressive Caucus and Women’s Caucus.
“The dehumanization of a mother and her baby in this video appalling and extremely difficult to watch. This is unacceptable, uncivilized and inhumane. Professionals should be trained to avoid incidents like this. I am joining with my colleagues in calling for a complete, immediate and transparent investigation. In the meantime, all of those involved should be placed on modified duty until we have answers. Jazmine Headley — and all New Yorkers — deserve nothing less. We cannot allow this type of behavior to fester and proliferate,” said Council Member Debi Rose, Member of the Progressive Caucus, BLAC, and Women’s Caucus.
“What happened to Jazmine Headley here in Brooklyn fits into the same pattern of racialized and gendered violence that we see time and time again. In this moment, we draw attention to the experience of Chikesia Clemons, who was brutally assaulted at a Cracker Barrel in Alabama. We draw attention to the violent treatment of a Black teenage girl from Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was assaulted by a school safety agent for refusing to take off her headphones. We also remember a 15-year-old girl at a pool party in McKinley, Texas, who was chased by a white male police officer, in an interaction that ended with that officer’s knee in her naked back. Too often young Black women face criminal charges after enduring these humiliating assaults by law enforcement, and we are devastated to see that Jazmine Headley is now among that number. Black women are harmed by the very systems that claim to protect them – when they are in school, at a pool party, out to eat with friends or seeking a childcare voucher. Our city must respond to this egregious violence immediately,” said Joanne N. Smith, Founder and Executive Director, Girls for Gender Equity.
“I stand here today to condemn the inhumane treatment Jazmine Headley received at the hands of City agencies that are supposed to be protecting our families,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus and Member of the Progressive Caucus and BLAC. “No mother seeking help from a City agency should have to worry about the safety of her child or herself. Assigning these officers to desk duty is a good first step, but it is clear that the City needs to do much more to build trust with all our communities going forward. We continue to call for a full investigation to take place immediately.
“As a father of a one year old son myself, the video of Jazmine Headley’s one year old child being ripped from her arms incites immediate feelings of anger, horror, and shock,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Member of the Progressive Caucus and BLAC. “Friday’s video also raises many questions about the NYPD’s use of excessive and unwarranted physical force, especially against the most vulnerable members of our society. The emotional trauma that Ms. Headley has endured is irreparable; the least that can be done at this point is to ensure that she is immediately released and reunited her with her child as we work to get to the bottom of the HRA and NYPD’s operational failures.”
“The video that has surfaced of what happened on Friday as Jazmine Headley waited for aid in the SNAP Center are profoundly disturbing to watch, and unimaginable to have experienced. The pain and fear she is clearly experiencing is palpable, and the forceful conduct of the officers aggravating that pain and fear is unfathomable. Jazmine was not a threat, but a mother who felt threatened- yet an officer drew their Taser and held it on her even as she only sought to hold her child.” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Member of the Progressive Caucus and BLAC. “The NYPD needs to explain itself- but I cannot imagine any explanation that would justify what we have seen. While a debate is ongoing about the conduct and tactics used, the human consequences are already in effect for Jazmine, and paramount should be the effect on her and her family. As we wait for answers, she in waiting in custody, and her son is waiting for his mother to come home.”
“It is harrowing to learn about the recent events that transpired in the past few days with a woman in Brooklyn battered by police officers while trying to protect her child and a report about a woman in the Bronx giving birth while shackled and handcuffed. No City agency or department is above the law. They need to follow protocol when interacting with any individual and they need to be held accountable for the cruel and abusive actions towards women. All residents of the City of New York have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and I will work with my Council colleagues and the Mayor to see that this inhumane conduct ends now,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, & Asian Caucus.
““All they had to do was offer her a seat. Jazmine Headley is a young mother who was seeking answers regarding a voucher she received for her child from the Department of Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn. Instead of her being treated with respect, compassion and concern, she encountered inhumane treatment that no one should experience from any individual, organization and certainly not a city agency. No parent should have to endure being disrespected by workers and so-called trained security personnel. For officers to manhandle her and rip her child from her arms is criminal.\We’re calling on all the agencies involved to fully investigate this horrific situation, appropriately discipline those who violated Jazmine’s constitutional rights and bring changes to policies that resulted in this occurrence,” said Council Member Inez Barron, Member of the Women’s Caucus and BLAC.
“What happened to Jazmine Headley and her one year old son was barbaric,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “A mother should never be forcibly ripped from her child, period. At every step of the way this situation was horrifically mishandled, and we need an immediate investigation into both HRA security and the NYPD officers — and into the systems that enabled this profound mistreatment. This is not the policing nor the family support system that this family, or any New Yorkers, deserve. I join my colleagues in demanding justice for Jazmine, and for a New York City that treats all mothers and families with compassion and respect.”
“Jazmine Headley must be released from Rikers and reunited with her baby son, immediately. This horrific incident demands an independent investigation into the actions of both the HRA and NYPD involved. We have a real, systemic problem with criminalizing poverty in our city and it must end,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Member of the Progressive Caucus.
“I am outraged but not surprised of the treatment of Jazmine Headley. Suspension does not go far enough to address the inhumane institutionalized pattern of bad behavior. The traumatic effect of this attack on Jasmine Headley and her child, and all those who witnessed the manhandling of this family by the police offices has taken its toll on all New Yorkers. Someone needs to be accountable.As Citizens and Civil Servants, WE MUST DO BETTER, WE WILL DO BETTER,” said Council Member Bill Perkins, Member of the Progressive Caucus and BLAC.
On Friday, December 7th, Jazmine Headley was at the HRA office in Boerum Hill and sat on the floor with her 1-year-old son to wait for her appointment because there were no available chairs. An HRA staffer called the police and when they arrived, officers brutally arrested her and ripped the child from her arms. One officer brandished a taser at others in the room. A video of the incident circulated on social media, gaining international attention. Two HRA peace officers have been placed on modified duty, but there has been no action taken relating to the NYPD officers.
Jazmine was charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and trespassing (UPDATE: Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez announced that he has moved to dismiss the charges immediately “in the interest of justice”). She has been held at Rikers Island since Friday in connection with an outstanding arrest warrant from New Jersey for a misdemeanor for failure to appear in relation to credit card fraud.
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.
The list of Council Members who attended this rally are as follows: Speaker Johnson, Council Members Levin, Ayala, Kallos, Ampry-Samuel, Rose, Rosenthal, Chin, Cumbo, Adams, Rivera, Richards, Powers, Gibson, Williams, Lander, Levine, Reynoso, Cornegy, Brannan, Miller, Menchaca, Treyger, Deutsch, Barron, Lancman, Salamanca, Perkins, and King.
The list of organizations that attended this rally are as follows: the Safety Net Project, Brooklyn Defender Services, Girls for Gender Equity, Safety Net Activists, Communities United for Police Reform, Justice League NYC, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the New York Civil Liberties Union.