Long Beach: A Muslim woman has been awarded $85,000 after an officer forcibly removed her hijab, or headscarf, when she was in police custody in Long Beach, California. Police originally banned inmates from wearing head scarves. They didn't return it until she was bailed out of jail the next day. She was arrested after police found a warrant under her name for a shoplifting incident, CNN reported on Friday. Powell's husband requested a female officer handle the arrest, but the arresting officers denied the request and told Powell that she had to remove her hijab.
After Powell's suit was filed, a police spokesperson confirmed that "during the booking process Powell's hijab was removed and placed into her property bag where it was secured". During the arrest, she was told by the officers that she would have to remove her hijab.
Powell was without her hijab for 24 hours until she was released. She described the experience as deeply traumatizing.
"Mrs. Powell is wearing the veil in the context of his religious beliefs and was forced to spend the night on her head when she was in detention". "She felt that the male officers and male inmates had seen parts of her body that they should not have seen, according to her religious beliefs".
The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced this week that a federal lawsuit filed by the group on behalf of plaintiff Kirsty Powell had been settled, after a vote on Tuesday by the Long Beach City Council. She filed a lawsuit in April 2016 and claimed the city's police violated her 1st Amendment rights and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Following the suit, the department changed its policies.
"We commend Kirsty Powell for choosing to defend her right to religious freedom and taking action", said civil rights attorney Marwa Rifahie of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.