Three Muslim women are set to receive a huge payout as a result of the New York Police Department egregiously forcing them to remove their hijabs for their mug shot photos.
According to the New York Daily News, the city will shell out a total of $180,000 to the three women whose cases were settled on Monday in Brooklyn federal court.
One of the cases dates back to 2012 when a Brooklyn high school student, only identified as “G.E.,” was taken into custody after a fight with two girls she said were spreading rumors about her.
While the criminal case against her was dismissed, the subsequent civil rights case that she filed had legs.
G.E. was taken to the local precinct where police ordered her to remove her hijab. When she refused, she was taken into a private room where a female officer took the photo without any men present.
However, when she was taken to Brooklyn central booking, the officers told her there weren’t any female officers available to take the picture and the camera was fixed in one spot so it couldn’t be taken to any private area. Therefore, she was forced to allow a male officer to take her picture without her hijab.
Her lawsuit claimed she felt “exposed, violated, and distraught” having her headscarf off for approximately 20 minutes as male officers and prisoners looked on.
Years later in March 2015, police issued an order changing the rules for people in custody who refused to remove their religious head coverings. The arresting officers had to give the person the option of getting a private photo taken with an officer of the same gender.
However, even the new rules were violated. The attorney who represented G.E., Tahanie Aboushi, filed two similar cases in 2015 and 2016 — after the new police protocol on head coverings had been implemented.
One of the women claimed she had to remove her veil at Brooklyn Central Booking. Another said her hijab was removed at the scene of her arrest after she was knocked unconscious in an altercation over a parking spot with her neighbor.
Police at Brooklyn central booking also allegedly denied the woman’s request for a female photographer.
All three of the cases were settled for $60,000 each. Additionally, the cases prompted the NYPD to take a second look at their procedures, and as of December 2017, the department sent out additional directives on religious head coverings.
Aboushi said the department’s effort was “collaborative” and a “great first step.”
“We did our best to establish good precedent,” said Aboushi, noting several religions have headwear requirements.
“On the one hand, it gives officers guidance, and on the other hand, it protects the exercise of religious freedom,” Aboushi added.
A Law Department rep said “the resolution of these matters were in the best interest of all parties involved.”
This is a victory for Muslims, Sikhs, and people of other religions with head covering requirements. But, even beyond that, it serves as a reminder to members of law enforcement that people in their custody still have rights, and they do not have the authority to violate those rights just because they are in a position of power.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Pexels, Judy Sengsone