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HRA personnel escalated tug-of-war incident with mom, NYPD says

A review of police body camera recordings and other evidence, including amateur video, found that officers were working with the mother, Jazmine Headley, to "de-escalate the situation," Commissioner James O'Neill said.

NYPD officers try to remove Jazmine Headley's baby

NYPD officers try to remove Jazmine Headley's baby from her arms at the Fort Greene Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Center on Dec. 7. Photo Credit: Monae Sinclair

An incident last week at a city Human Resources Administration office where a mother and her 18-month-old child were seen on an amateur video in the middle of a tug-of-war was exacerbated by HRA personnel and could have been avoided without further confrontation, the NYPD reported Friday night.

In a statement, Commissioner James O’Neill said a review of police body camera recordings and other evidence — including the amateur video that went viral — found that officers were working with the mother, Jazmine Headley, to “de-escalate the situation.”

Headley was at the HRA facility at 275 Bergen St. in Brooklyn on Dec. 7 to see about benefits for herself and her son.  

“The preliminary review finds that the incident was escalated by HRA personnel, and would likely have been avoided without escalation,” according to a brief summary of the event attached to O’Neill’s statement. NYPD officers had responded to the center after HRA personnel had asked Headley to leave the office, which she didn’t do. Officials said cops appeared to cool down the situation.

“After a final terse verbal exchange between Ms. Headley and an HRA [security] officer, Ms. Headley turns, appearing to head toward an exit, when the HRA officer grabs Ms. Headley’s arm, resulting in both being pulled to the ground,” said the NYPD summary.

“This action initiated the events that appear in the video that has been publicly viewed,” the summary stated. “NYPD officers then engage to effect the arrest.”

The amateur video depicted cops apparently trying to pull Headley’s child from her grasp as onlookers cry out in shock. The resulting video led to an outcry from New York City officials about how the NYPD and the HRA handled the situation.

Because of the outcry, the NYPD said it would deploy a supervising officer when the department responded to calls for service at HRA facilities. The NYPD said it would also review tactics in situations when a subject holding a young child was involved.

“This incident was chaotic and difficult to watch, and clearly something went wrong,” said O’Neill. "Our cops have challenging jobs, and we need to do all we can to ensure they have the tools, policies and support to best serve everyone in our city.”

In a statement, HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said the incident should never have happened. He said the two HRA peace officers involved have been suspended without pay for a period of time. He wants his agency staffers not to call cops without first taking steps to defuse a situation and respond to client needs, he said. Banks also said HRA staff would undergo training on de-escalation.

Charges against Headley in the incident were dismissed Tuesday by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

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