A Muslim woman was awarded $85,000 to settle a federal lawsuit after she was forced to remove her hijab in front of male officers after an arrest, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In 2015, Kirsty Powell and her husband were stopped for driving a lowrider vehicle. She was taken into custody after they ran her name and discovered she had three warrants for misdemeanor charges. The charges included petty theft, vehicle theft, and resisting arrest, police told the LA Times.
Powell was unaware of the petty theft warrant that dated back to 2002 and according to the lawsuit, the other two warrants stemmed from Powell’s sister falsely using her name.
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.
That request was not granted, so Powell was taken into custody by the male officers and then forced to take off her headscarf once arriving at the Long Beach police station, in view of other male inmates.
Her religious headwear was not returned to her until she left 24 hours after being detained.
“She cried throughout the ordeal and experienced humiliation when both her religious beliefs and personal integrity were violated,” the lawsuit said. “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 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.
Following Powell’s incident, the Long Beach Police Department modified its policy so that female officers are required to remove an incarcerated female’s religious headscarf away from the presence of males.
Long Beach assistant city attorney, Monte Machit, explained to the LA Times that the circuit court hasn’t yet determined if the old policy of allowing men to remove hijabs truly violated the federal law, but they believe the rule was not consistent with the Act.