Elected officials are calling for an investigation into the arrest of a Brooklyn mother, after video surfaced of police officers attempting to rip the woman's infant child away from her in a Boerum Hill food assistance center last week.
Footage posted to Facebook shows an NYPD sergeant and three officers wrestling with the distressed mother—identified by police as 23-year-old Jazmine Headley—as she lays on the ground clutching her 1-year-old son. One of the officers repeatedly attempts to yank the child from his mother's arms, prompting cries from the woman and a gathered crowd. "They're hurting my son," Headley shouts. "I'm begging you, please."
The same officer later pulls out a stun gun, which he points at the horrified onlookers. "There's a fucking baby in her hands!" one onlooker screams.
The chaotic incident happened on Friday afternoon, after Headley allegedly had a dispute with a security guard about sitting on the floor. She works as a cleaner, and was at the assistance center to pick up day care vouchers for someone to look after her young son, Damone, her mother told ABC-7.
The woman who took the video, Monae Sinclair, wrote on Facebook that the woman had sat in the corner because there weren't any available chairs in the room. The security guard called the cops after the woman made him "feel dumb," she said. Police claim the woman was acting "disorderly" and blocking a hallway, and that she was arrested after she "refused to comply with officers’ orders."
The cops' actions are completely reckless & without justification. I have never seen a police officer violently take a baby like that. They wouldn't normally risk doing that if a baby were by being held by someone who were a threat to them let alone their mother
— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) December 10, 2018
Being poor is not a crime.
The actions of the officers in this video are appalling & contemptible. There must be a full investigation & the results made public. No mother should have to experience the trauma & humiliation we all witnessed in this video.https://t.co/UU97MLJ5Pt
— Tish James (@TishJames) December 10, 2018
Sinclair's video sparked outrage and calls for discipline on social media over the weekend. "This is unacceptable, appalling and heart breaking," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted on Sunday. "I’d like to understand what transpired and how these officers or the NYPD justifies this."
Outgoing NYC Public Advocate and State Attorney General-elect Letitia James, who currently serves as public advocate, called for the involved officers to be placed on desk duty while an investigation is conducted. "No mother should have to experience the trauma and humiliation we all witnessed in this video," she said in a statement.
Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a spokesperson for the NYPD, conceded that the footage was "troubling" and said an investigation was underway. Police have so far refused to release the names of the officers seen on video.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was briefed on the incident, but his spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Headley was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and criminal trespass. She remained on Rikers Island as of Sunday night, due to a bench warrant for a misdemeanor arrest in New Jersey, according to the Brooklyn Defender Services. A family member took custody of the child following her arrest, police said.
On Monday morning, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will stage a rally outside the SNAP center, where he'll denounce the "excessive policing" and call for the charges against Headley to be dropped. "Something's terribly wrong when the most well-trained police department can't resolve a dispute with a mother and child without looking like [President Trump's] southern border strategy," he wrote on Twitter.
UPDATE: Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of the Brooklyn Defender Services, issued the following statement about Headley's arrest:
“We are appalled by the abuse that our client Ms. Headley and her 1 year-old son suffered at the hands of the NYPD, and we question why police were ever involved. In our experience, people are often treated abysmally when seeking support from many of the city bureaucracies that are supposed to be helping them. While their experiences are not always caught on video, they tell us about their struggles — from randomly terminated benefits to hours-long wait times and hostile security staff. We appreciate elected officials’ calls for investigations of the response by NYPD and the actions of HRA security staff. A social services agency whose mission is to provide critical support for vulnerable New Yorkers must treat all people with dignity and compassion, and should not call the police for this type of matter. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office should immediately dismiss the charges. Further, ACS should respect the family and ensure their immediate reunification.”
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA's office said that an independent investigation into the "troubling case" was underway. "We are in the process of reviewing all available videos and interviewing witnesses with the intention of reaching a swift decision," the spokesperson added. "We did not request any bail and Ms. Headley’s hold is in connection with a warrant from New Jersey. We are reaching out to authorities in that state to expedite her release."
Public defenders have taken issue with the office's interpretation, arguing that the district attorney could easily free Headley if he wanted. According to 5 Borough Defenders attorney Amanda Jack, detaining Headley over an out-of-state warrant is "practice not law."
“Cutslip” = court speak for a release order from the judge faxed to Rikers - Prosecutors insist an out-of-state warrant means remand but that is practice not law. @BrooklynDA should immediately request a cutslip for this mother. She can go clear up her NJ misdemeanor on her own. https://t.co/4ppnwb287c
— Amanda Jack (@brooklynPD) December 10, 2018