New York City must pay a total of $180,000 to three Muslim women who were forced to take off their head and face coverings for police mug shots.
According to a Daily News report, the three separate lawsuits that were settled on Monday, Feb. 26, awarded $60,000 to each of the three women for being forced to remove their hijabs.
One of the suits stems from a 2012 incident in which a Brooklyn high school girl identified as “G.E.” was arrested after getting into an altercation with two girls. The criminal case against the woman was eventually dismissed, but a photo taken during the booking process was central to a civil suit that followed.
It is reported that G.E. was taken to the 62nd Precinct of the New York Police Department, where officers told her she would have to take off her hijab for a mugshot.
The teen reportedly refused to be photographed in the presence of men, and was subsequently taken to a private room where a female officer took the photo, with no male officers present.
But at a central booking in Brooklyn, police told her there weren’t any female officers to take the photo and the only available camera was stationary and could not be moved from its fixtures, making a private photo impossible.
G.E. alleged a male officer forced her to remove her hijab and took her picture, making her feel “exposed, violated and distraught” as male police and prisoners looked on.
A change in police procedures took place in 2015, about three years after the incident involving G.E., regarding protocols for mugshots of people who refuse to take off religious headwear.
As of 2015, officers of the NYPD must notify detainees that they have a choice of getting a private photo – without the head covering and with an officer of the same gender.
The lawyer who pleaded G.E. case, Tahanie Aboushi, also filed two similar cases–one in 2015 and another in 2016–for incidents that happened after the new police rules on head coverings were in force.
One woman said she was forced to remove her head covering at Brooklyn Central Booking.
Another plaintiff claimed her hijab was removed at the scene of her arrest. She also alleged that police at Brooklyn Central Booking refused her request for a female photographer.
All three women have settled for $60,000 each.
Aboushi told the Daily News on Tuesday, Feb. 27, that further directives were adopted by the police in December 2017 on religious headwear. She called it a “collaborative” effort and a “great first step.”
“We did our best to establish good precedent,” said Aboushi. “On the one hand, it gives officers guidance, and on the other hand, it protects the exercise of religious freedom.”
Aboushi also noted that the practice of head coverings appears in many religions and cultures.