New York, NY – A total of $180,000 will be paid to three Muslim women who claimed their religious rights were violated by police, after they were told to remove their hijabs for their mugshots.
The cases also initiated alterations to the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) photographing procedures for people with religious head coverings.
Tahanie Aboushi, the women’s attorney, filed the first woman’s case back in 2012.
Her client, identified only as “G.E.,” was a high school student who was arrested after a physical altercation with two female peers who she believed were spreading rumors about her.
When G.E. arrived at the 62nd Precinct, she was told to remove hijab for her mugshot, but she refused. She was ultimately taken to a private room without any men, and a female officer took her photograph.
When she arrived at Brooklyn Central Booking, however, no female officers were available to take her mugshot. The photography equipment was also in a fixed location, so officers were unable to accommodate G.E. by taking her to a private room.
In her lawsuit, G.E. said she felt “exposed, violated and distraught” after she was told to remove her hijab for 20 minutes, while in the presence of male officers and inmates, the New York Daily News reported.
The other two women’s lawsuits were filed in 2015 and 2016, but they occurred after NYPD issued an order that altered mugshot procedures for people with religious headscarves. The new order required officers to give arrestees the option to have their photo taken in a private area by a person of the same sex.
One of the women said she had to remove her hijab at Brooklyn Central Booking.
According to her complaint, the male officer who photographed her said, “Wow, wow, wow,” when he saw her hair, while male inmates in the area laughed and made inappropriate comments, The New York Times reported.
The other woman, who was knocked unconscious during a physical altercation prior to officers’ arrival, said that her veil was removed at the scene of her arrest before she was taken to a hospital, The New York Times reported.
The NYPD issued additional policy changes for people with religious headwear in December of 2017, Aboushi told the New York Daily News on Tuesday.
“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.”