A truly fucked up and disturbing video of New York Police Department officers ripping a one-year-old child from the arms of his mother and then arresting her has sparked outrage and calls for reform.
Last Friday, 23-year-old Jazmine Headley visited the office of Human Resources Administration in Brooklyn, hoping to get a daycare voucher for son so that she could work as a cleaner. As the office was crowded and no chairs were available, according to witness reports, Headley and her 1-year-old sat on the floor. After security guards told Headley to stand, she refused. At that point, office staff escalated the situation, by first calling a supervisor, and then the police. What followed was captured in a video taken by Nyashia Ferguson. (Warning, it’s incredibly violent and difficult to watch.)
When Ferguson’s video begins, Headley is on the floor, repeatedly screaming “They’re hurting my son, they’re hurting my son!” as she’s surrounded by police officers. Then one officer begins forcefully pulling her one-year-old out of her arms, as stunned and outraged onlookers attempt to intervene. At one point, an officer pulls out a yellow stun gun and waves it around. The video ends with Headley handcuffed and taken out of the room.
Headley has been charged with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, trespassing, and harming her child, according to several news reports. She is currently being held without bail at Rikers Island, and will have a court hearing on Thursday.
As Brooklyn College professor Alex Vitale noted on Twitter, after the killing of Eric Garner in 2014, NYPD officers were supposed to receive de-escalation training in order to prevent situations exactly like this from occurring. Clearly, not much has changed.
A slew of elected officials have condemned the arrest. On Sunday night, the city’s public advocate (and the state’s recently elected attorney general) Letitia James released a statement on Facebook in which she called the NYPD’s actions “appalling and contemptible,” called for a full investigation, and recommended the officers involved be put on desk duty. “Being poor is not a crime,” James wrote (though in America, it still often is). New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson echoed James, calling the NYPD’s arrest of Headley “unacceptable, appalling and heart breaking.” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is demanding “immediate” reforms. In a statement, the NYPD called what happened “troubling” and is conducting its own investigation.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to comment on the officers’ conduct but his Twitter account offered the following on Saturday morning:
Update (3:16 p.m.): On Monday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio finally commented, writing in a tweet: “This was a disturbing incident. Like anyone who’s watched this video, I have a lot of questions about how this was handled. NYPD & HRA will get to the bottom of what happened.”