Osborne statement on Jazmine Headley's arrest and the need to implement child-sensitive arrest protocols

11 December 2018

On Friday, 23-year-old Jazmine Headley went to a Brooklyn Human Resources Administration building to ask for daycare vouchers for her 1-year-old son. After a verbal dispute with a security guard, police officers forcibly—violently and chaotically—removed Ms. Headley's son from her arms and arrested her.

Faced with criticism over the behavior of the arresting officers, Patrick Lynch, the leader of the New York Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, asked: "when confronted with a similar impossible scenario, what do you want us to do?"

There is actually a lot that can be done. While nothing can undo the incredible trauma for this mother and child, this tragic interaction can spur action. There are steps New York can take, right away, to make sure this never happens again. The NYPD can release and fully implement a comprehensive policy to safeguard children of arrested parents and begin training officers immediately on child-sensitive arrest protocols.

Such immediate action is possible. Joined by experts on childhood trauma and members of the law enforcement community, the Osborne Association has developed and advocated for policies to safeguard children at the time of a parent's arrest for more than a decade. In 2014, the International Association of the Chiefs of Police published a model policy for police departments to implement, citing widespread benefits to police officers as well as to children. The NYPD has said publicly that they have been piloting a protocol to focus on children at the time of arrest since July 2017 in precincts in Brooklyn South. It is time this pilot is strengthened, implemented citywide, combined with training of all personnel who are authorized to make arrests, and monitored.

The trauma inflicted on Ms. Headley's one-year-old child by the violent arrest of his mother tragically demonstrates that it's long past time to fully implement these policies.