A video of a Friday incident in which police officers in New York confronted a woman for sitting on the floor at a welfare office has sparked an investigation into the behavior of officers who attempted to violently pull her 1-year-old son away from her in order to arrest her.
The two-and-a-half minute video, captured at the Human Resources Administration office in Brooklyn, depicted a struggle between Jazmine Headley, 23, and a group of officers and security guards who surrounded her. In the video, Headley is lying on the ground and clutching her 1-year-old son, Damone, to her chest. The officers are attempting to pry Damone from her, at times with what appears to be a considerable amount of force. Throughout the video, Headley repeatedly screams, “They’re hurting my son.”
As officers appear to ignore her pleas, the crowd around them grows angry and shouts at them to stop. Eventually, one officer pulls out a yellow stun gun and waves it around threateningly, and the group of officers finally arrest Headley and lead her away from the shouting crowd. It’s unclear from the video if Headley or her son were injured.
According to CBS New York, Headley came to the office to apply for a voucher for city-funded child care so she could have someone watch her child while she worked her job as a cleaner. Many people at the office had been waiting in line for nearly two hours, and there were no chairs left for people to sit. When Headley sat on the floor, a security guard came over to her and told her to stand. Headley refused, and staff and security guards told her to leave because of “disorderly conduct towards other people,” authorities told CBS New York. When she still refused, the office called the police. Police who arrived to arrest her claim she resisted arrest. Witnesses said police failed to talk to her in a way that was respectful or that would have de-escalated the situation.
“Being poor is not a crime,” State Attorney General-elect Letitia James wrote on Facebook on Sunday in a statement calling for an investigation of the police’s actions. “The actions of the NYPD in this video are appalling and contemptible…. No mother should have to experience the trauma and humiliation we all witnessed in this video.”
Headley has been charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration, and criminal trespass. A family friend took custody of the child while Headley is in jail. In a statement, the NYPD called the video “troubling” and said it was investigating the incident.