Nearly two months after a video surfaced of a young New York mother seeing her baby ripped from her arms by local police, the New York City Council has issued a public apology.
On Feb. 4, a representative for the council said he was sorry on behalf of the city for the way Jazmine Headley was treated at the Human Resources Administration office back in December.
“I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry on behalf of the City of New York,” NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at the hearing where Headley testified Monday. “I’m sorry you ever had to go to that HRA Center. I’m sorry that you and your baby had to experience that trauma. I’m sorry that you were wrongfully kept on Rikers Island for multiple days away from your family. You deserve so much more than you received and I am deeply, deeply apologetic that you had to have this experience.”
He added that he was “similarly deeply, deeply grateful” for the single mother’s “bravery.”
“Nobody will ever know the love that we have for our children. No one can take that from me. Unless you are a parent,” said Headley before she started to weep, according to the New York Daily News. “Unless you are a parent who has a child taken from you, you will never know or be able to relate to the pain that I felt that day.”
Jazmine Headley came to the @NYCCouncil today, and I think her testimony about her mistreatment speaks for itself.
I am so grateful that Jazmine was willing to come speak to us today, and we are working on legislation to prevent future injustices like what happened to her. pic.twitter.com/EqFFvUJ2XI
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) February 5, 2019
“It’s not just the fact that I was arrested. It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me,” Headley also said during her testimony.
Additionally, Headley suggested “social workers, not security officers,” be put in place to avoid any similar future disputes.
The 23-year-old had visited the local social services offices to get vouchers for her 1-year-old son’s day care on Friday, Dec. 7. She sat on the floor of the Department of Social Services because all the seats were taken. When security approached her and ordered her to stand up, she refused. A supervisor called the cops and four officers arrived on the scene surrounding her. In an effort to get Headly to stand up, they began pulling her before one of the officers, a woman, started yanking her crying baby.
“They’re hurting my son! They’re hurting my son!” Headley exclaimed about her child, Damone.
Headley was jailed and her charges — including resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child — were ultimately dropped; she was released the following Tuesday. An initial investigation led to no disciplinary action for the officers involved as there was “no wrongdoing” found to have occurred. The New York Times reported that one “peace officer,” as the guards are called, involved in the event has resigned and the city is looking to fire another.
As a result of the incident, the NYC Council is reviewing 13 new bills concerning the experience of visitors in HRA centers. They include DSS-conducted training on de-escalating conflict for every worker at Job Centers or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Centers and quarterly reports filed by DSS and HRA on incidents that include the use of force at their facilities.
The way Jazmine Headley was treated in a public benefits office is completely unacceptable.
Today I apologized to her, on behalf of New York City.
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) February 4, 2019