NYPD Faces Backlash After Mother Forced to the Ground, Handcuffed in Front of Child After Confrontation Over Face Masks

The New York Police Department is facing backlash after video on social media showed officers forcing a mother to the ground and handcuffing her in front of her young child after a confrontation over how she was wearing her face mask.

In video published online, 22-year-old Kaleemah Rozier and her child are seen being escorted up the stairs from a subway platform by police. The mother is heard shouting "Don't touch me" before seen to be slapping away the hand of an officer.

Multiple officers then crowd around the mother before forcing her to the ground and handcuffing her as bystanders urge them to stop, saying: "This is unnecessary."

"She's got a kid," one bystander is heard saying. "That's too much, man."

CW: Police Violence

NYPD officers escorted a young woman with her toddler (both wearing masks) up the subway platform stairs, then forced her to the ground & handcuffed her, in Brooklyn this afternoon.

Police said she wasn't wearing her mask properly. pic.twitter.com/MasDh0YGn1

— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) May 14, 2020

In a statement sent to Newsweek, an NYPD spokesperson said the altercation took place at around 11:50 a.m. on Wednesday at the Atlantic Avenue/Barclay Center Subway Station after police officers stopped the mother for not "properly wearing" her face mask.

Face masks are required on public transit under New York's rules requiring that residents wear the coverings in public if they cannot effectively socially distance from others.

"She responded to the officers with vulgar language and repeatedly refused requests to properly wear her face covering over her nose and mouth," the spokesperson said. "Officers then informed her she would be ejected from the station and began to escort her from the location."

At some point, the spokesperson said, officers told the mother: "Do not do this in front of your kid ma'am."

"The woman then waved her arms and struck an officer with her hand," the spokesperson said. "As a result of these actions, she was taken into custody and placed under arrest."

Rozier was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and harassment, the spokesperson said. She has since been "released on a Desk Appearance Ticket."

The NYPD has insisted that Rozier's "behavior towards officers warranted police action."

While the NYPD spokesperson said the department was "confident that the police officers in this incident acted appropriately and with respect," bystanders and others who have now seen video of the incident appear to disagree.

Social media users have argued that officers' use of force was excessive given the circumstances. Some have also questioned whether this was a case of police violence against a woman of color. Rozier's race and ethnicity are unclear.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also condemned the incident, saying: "Face coverings are important to protect everybody—they're not optional. But no one wants to see an interaction turn into this."

"We've made progress with de-escalation," he said, referring to NYC's efforts to ensure that officers are focused on de-escalating conflicts. "This isn't it," he said.

Newsweek has contacted the mayor's office for further comment.

Face coverings are important to protect everybody — they’re not optional.

But no one wants to see an interaction turn into this.

We’ve made progress with de-escalation. This isn’t it. https://t.co/jVx22uLSj8

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) May 14, 2020