What to Know
The two peace officers seen tussling with a mother at a social services office in Brooklyn have been suspended without pay for 30 days
The Department of Social Services commissioner also apologized for the incident and promised new training for peace officers at HRA officers
The HRA officers dispute they escalated the situation, saying it was the mother who attacked them first
New York City's social services commissioner says he's suspended two peace officers without pay for 30 days for the physical altercation in which police officers were seen tugging a toddler from his mother's arms inside a social services office.
Steven Banks apologized for what happened to 23-year-old Jazmine Headley and her 1-year-old son at the Human Resources Administration's DeKalb Center on Dec. 7, saying it was "completely unacceptable and should never happen again in New York City."
Both the mayor and the police union president have blamed the HRA peace officers for escalating the situation before police arrived, putting NYPD officers in an "impossible situation," according to PBA President Pat Lynch.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill added on Friday that the police department's own review -- which included a review of body cam footage and 911 calls, and interviews with Headley and Headley's mother -- showed that "prior to the incident depicted on public video, NYPD officers are working with the client to de-escalate the situation."
According to the NYPD, when police officers arrived on scene, they asked Headley several times to leave the office as HRA had requested. After a "final terse verbal exchange" between Headley and an HRA officer, Headley turned and appeared to be heading toward the exit when the HRA officer grabbed Headley's arm, resulting in both of them being pulled to the ground.
That resulted in the incident captured on the video that went viral and caused a furor. The video showed Headley ending up lying face-up on the floor, and a police officer at another point pulling her stun gun out and aiming it at the upset crowd.
But those two HRA officers claimed, in a statement by their union representative, that Headley instigated, and that the video does not show Headley kicking an officer and biting another, leaving a bruise.
"Everyone, in their haste to blame somebody, found their scapegoats, these two peace officers that work in the facility," said union president Gregory Floyd. "She used the child as a shield between she and the police officers -- the police officers' reaction was to stop the woman from using the child as a shield because she was using the child."
Headley's attorney, Katie Rosenfeld, responded, "The self-serving statements by the two HRA officers who attacked Headley and her young son are a failed attempt to cover up their own disgraceful acts."
For his part, Banks promised new training within the next 90 days for peace officers stationed at HRA offices across the city. Among them: peace officers cannot request NYPD to intervene in similar incidents without first contacting its own director to try to defuse the situation.
When it does become necessary for police to respond to an HRA facility, an NYPD supervisor will be part of the response team, and there will a process in place for transferring control from the peace officers to NYPD.
"I intend to attend each of these retraining sessions to speak to the HRA Peace Officers regarding the importance of deescalating disputes," Banks said in a statement.
He said the Department of Social Services will also get implicit bias training to promote diversity and dignity-centered client services.
The video had spurred outrage from those who say it's indicative of how social service recipients are treated. Headley had been waiting for hours in the office looking for answers as to why her day care voucher for her son had run out, and it was when she sat on the floor of the full waiting room that the incident with the HRA officers started, according to the witness who posted the video.
Headley, who initially faced charges in the tussle with cops and was held at Rikers Island for four nights, saw those charges dropped by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who said he was "horrified by the violence depicted in the video." The following day, she resolved a separate case in New Jersey, where she had an outstanding warrant in Mercer County in an unrelated credit card fraud case. Charges in that case will be dropped when she completes an intervention program, pays back $1,000 and completes 20 hours of community service.