NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After cell phone video of a baby pulled from a young mother’s arms at a city assistance center went viral, city leaders are now calling for change.
They’re proposing new legislation and better oversight of New York’s Human Resources Administration.
The video has been seen by millions across the country. Jazmine Headley was arrested at a Brooklyn food stamp center back in December on an outstanding warrant for credit card fraud.
Her one-year-old son was caught in a violent tug-of-war and eventually taken from her arms by officers.
In tears on Monday, the 23-year-old called for change at an emotional city council hearing.
“Unless you are a parent who has a child taken from you, you will never know or be able to relate to the pain I felt that day,” Headley said.
Headley claimed that there was no seating left at the facility owned by HRA that day. The 23-year-old reportedly sat on the ground with her baby and was asked to get up. Things escalated as HRA peace officers called for NYPD backup.
“Social workers not security officers, police officers should never be called,” Headley said. “I was a number, a ticket, a problem.”
Headley received a standing ovation from councilmembers who agree this is a systemic issue within HRA. They vowed to better oversee the agency with 13 different bill proposals.
“No family should have to the experience trauma that Jazmine and her baby had to face. We must do better,” council speaker Corey Johnson said.
Members launched a barrage of questions at Department of Social Services commissioner Steve Banks, who oversees HRA and was on the hot seat Monday.
“What kind of accommodations can Jazmine Headley look for next time when she comes in?” city councilmember Laurie Cumbo asked.
Banks apologized, saying more should and will be done. The commissioner listed off the following changes:
- A pilot program to implement social workers at HRA centers who will help defuse situations
- A new policy stating peace officers should only call the NYPD if there is an immediate threat or with a director’s permission
- More yearly training with an emphasis on de-escalating disputes
- HRA peace officers will also begin wearing body cameras
“It’s caused me to look in the mirror, so that nothing like that ever happens again,” Banks said.
As for the two HRA peace officers involved in the incident, one has since resigned and the other has been assigned to administrative duties pending disciplinary charges – which could result in termination.