Nearly two months after Jazmine Headley’s baby was ripped from her arms by NYPD officers at a public benefits office, she received a public apology from several city Council members during a hearing on Monday.
Headley, whose arrest was captured in a disturbing viral video in December, testified at a City Council hearing about having her 1-year-old son pulled away from her arms at a Brooklyn Human Resources Administration building where she was seeking public assistance.
“It’s not just the fact that I was arrested,” she said, according to New York Times. “It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me.”
In an interview with New York Times in December, Headley recalled the experience: She had been trying to leave the office with her son after a dispute with a security guard over whether or not she was allowed to sit on the floor had escalated, and the police were called. On her way out, a guard grabbed her arm, instigating what was seen in the video footage — multiple officers trying to pull her son away as she repeatedly said, “You’re hurting my son.”
Headley was subsequently arrested and held at Rikers Island for four nights before charges were dropped and she was released.
During the hearing, Headley reminded Council members that she is just one of thousands of New Yorkers who visit public benefits offices every day, only to be faced with poor service and treatment. The New York Daily News reports that she suggested that benefits centers need less security and more support: “Social workers, not security officers.”
The Times reports that one guard who was involved in the incident has resigned, and the city is moving to fire another.
Headley’s testimony was met with a standing ovation as Council members publicly apologized to her. Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, stepped down from the dais to hug her, according to the Times; he also repeatedly apologized for the way she had been treated and commended her bravery.
“I am similarly deeply, deeply grateful for your bravery, for you wanting to tell your story, for you wanting to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he told her.
Steven Banks, the commissioner of social services, who apologized to her in a statement in December, apologized again at the hearing and said that the department has made a commitment to “do more.”
Headley told the Times in December that she was planning to file a lawsuit to prevent anyone else from going through what she did. In a statement to the Cut, Headley’s attorney, Katherine Rosenfeld, said that the firm did file a Notice of Claim to preserve their client’s rights, but declined to comment any further.