NEW YORK – New York City will have to pay out $180,000 to three Muslim women who were told to remove hijabs for their mugshots.
Three lawsuits were settled Monday in Brooklyn federal court stemming from the NYPD policy of photographing people wearing religious head coverings, reported the New York Daily News. The three women settled for $60,000 each.
Some cases date to 2012, when a high school girl—identified as “G.E.”—was arrested after a brawl with two other girls whom she thought spread gossip about her.
G.E. was initially brought to a local police station and was told to remove her hijab. However, she refused. As a result, she was taken to a secluded room where a female police officer took her photo outside the presence of any men, the Daily News reported.
Yet at Brooklyn Central Booking the police could not accommodate the girl’s religious needs. She was told there were not any female officers available. Moreover, the camera was in a fixed spot. Therefore, the mugshot could not be taken in a private room.
The girl alleged that a male officer then took her photo without a hijab, making her feel “exposed, violated and distraught” as she was forced to be without the Islamic garb for 20 minutes while male officers and prisoners looked at her.
Police issued an order in March 2015, according to court filings, changing the policies regarding people who refuse to remove their religious head coverings. Officers who perform the arrest had to tell the person that the NYPD offers a choice of getting a private photo—without the head garb and with an officer of the same gender.
G.E.’s lawyer, Tahanie Aboushi, filed two additional cases in 2015 and 2016. Each incident involved similar circumstances.
One woman claims to have been forced to remove her veil at Brooklyn Central Booking police station and was denied a female photographer. Another accuser said her hijab was removed at the scene of her arrest.
Aboushi told the Daily News on Tuesday that the police department issued additional policies regarding religious headwear in December 2017.
“We did our best to establish good precedent,” Aboushi said. “On the one hand, it gives officers guidance, and on the other hand, it protects the exercise of religious freedom.”