Violent Arrest Of Black Mother Jazmine Headley Leads To Bill Centered On Improving Service At NYC Benefit Offices
The bill hopes to improve customer experience at SNAP offices in New York City.
June 25, 2019 at 2:31 pm
The New York City Council is contemplating a new law that would force government offices to track wait times and notify beneficiaries before they arrive. The proposed legislation is a direct response to a terrifying situation last year where police violently arrested a young mother who had been waiting for nearly four hours.
Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres said he wanted the city to understand how much time it took for people to be served at government offices from when they entered to when they left.
“DSS and HRA should accurately measure and report wait times to reflect the entire time that visitors spend at job and SNAP centers — from entry to departure,” Torres told The New York Daily News.
“This will allow for better planning and enable the agencies to better direct resources to decrease those wait times.”
In December 2018, 23-year-old mother Jazmine Headley was seen on video being dragged across the floor by police at a Brooklyn Human Resources Administration SNAP center. Headley went to the center to ask why her son's daycare was no longer covered by the city, but she became frustrated after nearly waiting four hours.
Looking to rest her legs after standing and waiting for four hours, she sat down on the floor. Two security guards told her she could not sit on the floor and a heated exchange began.
Workers at the SNAP center called the police on Headley, and officers ripped her son from her arms as they handcuffed her. Headley spent days on Rikers Island before she was released and the city dropped all charges against her.
In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council formally apologized to her for the situation and brought her to the council's chambers for a speech. Despite the video, both officers were not fired and the NYPD commissioner blamed the workers at the office for escalating the situation. One security guard at the SNAP center was fired and the other resigned.
Jazmine Headley came to the @NYCCouncil today, and I think her testimony about her mistreatment speaks for itself.— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) February 5, 2019
I am so grateful that Jazmine was willing to come speak to us today, and we are working on legislation to prevent future injustices like what happened to her. pic.twitter.com/EqFFvUJ2XI
“It’s not just the fact that I was arrested. It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me,” the 23-year-old said in her speech.
"I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I’ve done what I had to do. It felt like no one cared about me or what I had to say. It felt like I was just a number, a ticket, a problem."
Being poor is not a crime.— Tish James (@TishJames) December 10, 2018
The actions of the officers in this video are appalling & contemptible. There must be a full investigation & the results made public. No mother should have to experience the trauma & humiliation we all witnessed in this video.https://t.co/UU97MLJ5Pt
Torres is hoping to get a better read on wait times for city benefits so they can reduce the mayhem at offices around the city. Current estimates say from check-in to the time of your appointment is only about 45 minutes. However, New Yorkers who have to deal with benefits often say the offices are notoriously slow with paperwork.
In the aftermath of Headley's situation, news outlets shined a light on a common practice of city workers that involved closing SNAP cases unilaterally and forcing people to reapply for city benefits. The New York Times labeled the practice as"churning" because it puts the paperwork onus on beneficiaries as opposed to the benefits offices.
Welcoming the mother of #JazmineHeadley (NYPD officers pried her 1-year-old son from her arms in a startling viral video recently) and giving her a special gift from NAN for her family for the holidays. #NANSaturdayActionRally @ImpactTVNetwork @1190amwlib @NationalAction pic.twitter.com/VemXb3YOK8— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) December 22, 2018
The bill will make its way to New York City Council this week. However, officials with the SNAP office say most people apply for benefits online, which save people the time and trouble of coming to their offices.