Brooklyn, NY – The New York Police Department (NYPD) has launched an investigation into the amount of force officers utilized while arresting a mother who used her one-year-old son as a human shield (video below).
Jazmine Headley, 23, refused to leave the Boerum Hill social services office on Friday, then clutched her child in front of her and resisted arrest when police were called to the scene, the New York Post reported.
NYPD officers were forced to remove the baby from Headley’s grasp in order to place the unruly woman into custody, prompting outrage from a crowd of onlookers, cell phone footage showed.
That outrage spread throughout the community after the video was posted to social media.
"These police officers were put in an impossible situation. They didn't create the dispute at the HRA office – as always, they were called in to deal with the inevitable fallout when the rest of our City government fails in its task," New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said in a statement, according to ABC News.
"The event would have unfolded much differently if those at the scene had simply complied with the officers' lawful orders," Lynch said.
"The immediate rush to condemn these officers leaves their fellow cops wondering: when confronted with a similar impossible scenario, what do you want us to do? The answer cannot be 'do nothing,’” he added.
Headley, who was also wanted on an outstanding New Jersey arrest warrant for failing to appear in connection to credit card theft, went to the Human Resources Administration (HRA) office on Bergen Street after her food stamps were “shut off unexpectedly,” Borough President Eric Adams told WPIX.
Brooklyn Defender Services Executive Director Lisa Schreibersdorf said that Headley was actually trying to determine why her vouchers for daycare had ceased, ABC News reported.
Headley’s mother, Jacqueline Jenkins, said she witnessed the altercation, which began after her daughter sat down on the floor because there were not enough chairs, she said.
HRA security officers then told Headley she was blocking the hallway and that she could not sit there, but Headley refused to move, according to Jenkins.
At that point, an HRA supervisor contacted the NYPD for assistance.
Police received the call just before 1 p.m., the NYPD said in a statement.
“The NYPD was called after office staff and HRA peace officers made unsuccessful attempts to remove this individual from the facility due to her disorderly conduct towards others, and for obstructing a hallway," the statement read.
The cell phone video did not capture the events that led up to the altercation, but did show Headley lying on the floor with her son held to her chest.
“They’re hurting my son!” she screamed repeatedly, as a crowd of onlookers quickly assembled.
The officers tried to get the wailing baby to safety, but Headley refused to let go.
“She’s got her f--kin' baby in her hands!” one bystander yelled at the officers, as Headley laid on her back and raised her boots into the air.
“She Made The Security Guard Feel Dumb So She Called The Cops On Her & This Was The Outcome,” the video caption read. “Mind You She Had Her Baby In Her Hands The Whole Time…I'm So F--king Disgusted with The NYPD.”
One officer pulled out a Taser as the irate crowd moved in, although it was never deployed, police said.
Police were able to get the child away from Headley, and he was ultimately turned over to Jenkins by Child Protective Services, ABC News reported.
Headley was arrested and charged with committing an act in a manner injurious to a child, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, and criminal trespass.
A judge also issued a protection order against her, and barred her from having contact with her child.
HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said he was “deeply troubled” by the video, and that he had placed two HRA security officers involved in the altercation onto modified duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Banks said that HRA staff needs to be better trained to de-escalate situations on their own before they contact NYPD for assistance.
"HRA centers must be safe havens for New Yorkers needing to access benefits to improve their lives," he added.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said that the police department has also opened an investigation into the altercation.
"We’re trying to get as much video as we can," Commissioner O'Neill said. "We’ve got to see what led up to the incident. What were the actions of the people from HRA? What were the actions of our police officers?"
"The video, obviously, is disturbing. It's very disturbing to me," he said. "I'm a dad. I have two kids. But being a cop is a really difficult job."
Adams demanded that the charges against Headley be dropped immediately, and admonished the NYPD for how they handled the situation.
"We are better than the images we witnessed over the weekend," Adams said. "This should be a place where families come to regain their dignity and respect instead of having it ripped from them."
"Something's terribly wrong when the most well-trained police department can't resolve a dispute with a mother and child without looking like the president's southern border strategy. We must do better," he railed.
Schreibersdorf and Adams said the entire incident could have been avoided if HRA would have provided Headley with a chair.
"When people come to this office, they are here because they are in crisis," Schreibersdorf added. "Instead, they escalated the situation by bringing the police department in."
According to a Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office spokesperson, the office plans to drop the charges against Headley, ABC News reported.
The prosecutor’s office is also trying to “expedite” Headley’s release from Riker’s Island by asking New Jersey officials to address the warrant she is being held on from their jurisdiction.
You can watch cell phone footage of the altercation in the video below: