Long Beach Settles Lawsuit After Police Forcibly Remove Woman’s Hijab

Authorities in Long Beach, New York, United States of America has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused its police officers of stripping a Muslim woman, Kirsty Powell, of her hijab during an arrest and making her spend a night in jail without it.

Police said that when they looked at the African-American Muslim’s name in their system, they found she had three warrants for vehicle theft, petty theft and resisting arrest. The warrants were for resisting arrest, vehicle theft and petty theft.

During a traffic stop, Powell was arrested on outstanding warrants that have since been cleared, according to CAIR-LA, which alleged Long Beach Police Department officers repeatedly told her she would have to remove her hijab and denied her requests to be searched by a female officer or allowed to continue wearing the headscarf while in custody.

During the 2015 incident, Powell’s husband requested for a female officer to come to the scene because physical contact should come from another woman according to their religious beliefs, as stated in the lawsuit.

“I want my Muslim sisters to always feel comfortable and safe wearing a hijab and to stand up for what’s right”, she said.

“She was held in the jail overnight, forced to sit in a cell feeling distraught, vulnerable and naked without her headscarf to everyone that passed”, according to the lawsuit.

The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday to approve the settlement, which includes $85,000 in damages for Kirsty Powell.

CAIR, which launched legal action for Ms Powell, said “police officers forcibly removed her hijab in view of other male officers and dozens of inmates”.

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 and claimed that her 1st Amendment rights were violated along with a federal law that protects the religious rights of inmates, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Now, it is the police who must remove the veil of a prisoner “when it is necessary for the safety of the officer”, and outside the presence of police officers or male prisoners, said Monte Machit, assistant prosecutor of the city of Long Beach, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. The religious head covering would then be delivered back to the inmate.