City Council Passes Child Sensitive Arrest Bill Taking Important Steps to Safeguard Children

15 August 2019

City Council Passes Child Sensitive Arrest Bill Taking Important Steps to Safeguard Children at the Time of a Parent’s Arrest

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August 14, 2019 - Today City Council voted to pass Intro 1349, a bill sponsored by Councilmember Daniel Dromm that would require the New York Police Department to develop guidance for its
officers on procedures to be followed when arresting a caregiver whose child is present in order to minimize the trauma to children. It would also require the NYPD to train its officers on the new procedures.
This is a huge and important step that will benefit the well being of thousands of children who experience and witness the arrest of a parent, including instances when the offense is not child-related (e.g., shoplifting, driving with an expired license, or drug sales).The City learned of the horror of an arrest that is not child-sensitive last December 2018 when the infant son of Jazmine Headley was ripped from her arms while she was arrested in an HRA office. This traumatizing incident was the impetus for this bill and we applaud Councilmember Dromm and the City Council for taking action.

While we do not know how many children in New York City are present at a parent’s arrest - and this bill would not answer this question, unfortunately - data collected by the Criminal Justice Agency found that in 2017, over 5,000 people who were arrested reported being full-time caregivers to children; and 38,724 arrestees reported providing financial support to more than 74,300 children(1). Witnessing a parent’s arrest can have serious and even lifelong effects on a child, but steps to minimize this trauma and provide support afterward (by a partner entity working with the NYPD) can mitigate the risk. Law enforcement authorities should all be trained on interacting with children and implement concrete steps before and during an arrest that consider the needs of children. The bill passed today will lead to the development of training and a written protocol that will benefit officers as well as children, and may contribute to strengthening community-police relations.

Today’s bill moves New York City closer towards the national standard of best practices in this area, though it also leaves key issues out. In 2014, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a detailed and comprehensive model protocol that includes - whenever possible- avoiding the use of force and handcuffing the parent/caregiver in front of the child, allowing the parent/caregiver to make arrangements for the child, talking to the child in age-appropriate ways, and making arrangements for any children not present about whom the arrested parent/caregiver alerts the officer. The bill passed today implements these key elements but it does not address the need for pre-arrest planning, including executing warrants when children are least likely to be present, and it leaves out data collection needed to track implementation of the new protocols, and know how many children are present at the time of parent or caregiver’s arrest. Knowing the scope of this issue would assist NYC in ensuring that supportive services are available for children who experience the arrest of a parent or caregiver. Advocates, children, and City officials applaud today’s vote, and we also call on the City Council and NYPD to act to put the remaining needed pieces in place. Children like Ms. Headley’s son are counting on us to do so.

Raymond Rodriguez, who witnessed his father’s arrest when he was a child, said: “I first began sharing my story when I was 14 years old through the Osborne Association’s youth programs -- that was 9 years ago. I met with the elected and government officials in hopes of creating positive change in our criminal justice system, by sharing my story and advocating on behalf of children with incarcerated parents. Passing this bill is important to me because it can protect innocent children who are present during future arrests. I was traumatized when I witnessed my father’s aggressive arrest and I wish the responding officers would have thought of me as I watched the whole thing. Officers should always be trained in appropriate arrest tactics whenever a minor is present, and I’m pleased that the NYPD will now provide that for them. This bill will support both sides of arrests: it’s not easy on officers either when children are there. My goal is to become an officer with the NYPD someday, giving back to my community and this means a lot to me. Thank you.”

Chief Brendan Cox, retired police Chief from Albany: “ l applaud the passage of this bill. It is imperative that we provide police officers with training and guidance around safeguarding children during the arrest of a caregiver. Ensuring the well-being of children at this difficult time will help mitigate the emotional trauma that can lead to long term harm. By taking extra care in ensuring the wellbeing of children positive bonds can be created between the child, police officers, and caregiver, that will further lead to positive police/community relations.”

Liz Gaynes, CEO and President of the Osborne Association: “The Osborne Association applauds the passage of Intro 1349. We have been providing services to children of arrested and incarcerated parents for over three decades, including those who have witnessed their parent’s arrest, and we see the aftereffects and toll that this trauma takes. We also know that police officers have a very challenging job and deserve training and guidance on minimizing trauma to children, and secondary trauma to themselves. This new law takes important steps in this direction and we look forward to working with the City Council, the NYPD, and community partners to safeguard children before, during, and after a parent’s arrest.”

Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services: “Arresting parents and other caregivers in the presence of their children is particularly traumatic and dangerous, as exemplified by the violent and totally unnecessary arrest of Jazmine Headley, whose baby was ripped from her arms by police at an HRA office in Brooklyn. As Jazmine’s attorneys in that now-dismissed case, we applaud the Council for taking action today. By passing legislation to reduce the harm of arresting parents while seeking to ensure their children are handed off to relatives or friends, as well as several additional bills to improve people’s experiences navigating public benefits, the Council is sending a clear message that what happened to Jazmine and countless other New Yorkers must never happen again.”

Ebony Underwood, Founder and CEO, We Got Us Now: “We Got Us Now supports Councilmember Daniel Dromm’s Child Sensitive Arrest bill. Arresting a parent while a child is present is socially and emotionally traumatizing and detrimental to a child’s wellbeing. We Got Us Now is a national organization that advocates for the wellbeing of children of incarcerated parents. Safeguarding children should be centered at the time of a parent’s arrest. Unfortunately that did not occur when Ms. Jazmine Headley and her one-year old child experienced her traumatizing arrest in December 2018. Children, of all ages-not to mention toddlers- should never bear witness to a parent’s arrest. It’s time for full implementation of protocol and policies that will consider the rights of the child first.”

CONTACT:

Tanya Krupat, tkrupat@osborneny.org
Allison Hollihan, ahollihan@osborneny.org

Osborne Center for Justice Across Generations and the NY Initiative for Children of Incarcerated

Parents - 646-964-2160

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1 - NYC Criminal Justice Agency report (September 2018), Defendants’ Full-Time Care and Financial Support of Children, 2017