Letter to Mayor de Blasio: Safeguarding Children at the Time of Arrest

February 1, 2019

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

We, a diverse group of human service providers, faith-based leaders, and advocates call on the leadership of New York City to immediately adopt a city-wide policy to safeguard children at the time of a parent’s arrest and provide all arresting officers with substantive training to minimize trauma to children who are present during an arrest. NYC has a clearly articulated protocol in place when the parent is being arrested for harm to the child; we call on NYC to have an equally detailed and comprehensive protocol when parents are arrested for non-child-related reasons.

It is clear from the incident on December 7, 2018, when responding officers forcibly ripped Jazmine Headley’s infant son from her arms at a Brooklyn Human Resources Administration (HRA) building, that the officers were not equipped with the sensitivity and skills necessary to consider the needs and safety of Ms. Headley’s son. Contrary to the response of the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch who stated, “The immediate rush to condemn these officers leaves their fellow cops wondering: when confronted with a similar impossible scenario, what do you want us to do?,” there is a lot that the officers could have done differently (not to mention that this was hardly an “impossible scenario”). There are concrete steps to put into place immediately to ensure this never happens again. Children’s well-being depends on these next steps, and officers’ safety and welfare are maximized by implementing these steps as well.

The NYPD, HRA, and all city agencies and contracted entities with the power to conduct arrests can implement a comprehensive policy to safeguard children of arrested parents and begin training all officers immediately on child-sensitive arrest protocols. Existing resources and training curricula exist. For example, the International Association of the Chiefs of Police (IACP) model policy for “Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents” published in 2014 outlines a detailed law enforcement protocol to safeguard children, and an implementation guide and training tools are available on the IACP website. Curricula on child-sensitive arrest practices should also be included in The New York Police Academy Basic Training curricula. As of 2016, all law enforcement officers in New York State, except for the NYPD and the New York State Police, receive training on how to safeguard children at the scene of arrest as part of the NYS Office of Public Safety’s Basic Training.

Read the whole letter here.