The City of New York and a police officer are the defendants in a proposed civil rights class action in which two named plaintiffs allege the city’s policy of forcing Muslim women who are arrested to remove their hijabs in the presence of men in order to be photographed is unconstitutional. Arrest photos of women who have removed their hijabs are then saved to a database available to anyone with access indefinitely, the 28-page lawsuit says.
“The experiences of the Plaintiffs and the humiliation of being forced to unveil in front of male strangers happens to each Muslim woman who is arrested in the City of New York,” the complaint states.
The New York Police Department revised its policy concerning arrestee photographs and the removal of hijabs in 2015 to purportedly allow Muslim women to wear their hijabs during identification photographing at the precinct only, the case says. The plaintiffs argue, however, that despite the policy change, many Muslim women are still forced to remove their hijabs at both central booking and New York City precincts. Further, the plaintiffs charge that a so-called “accommodation” the city put in place for Muslim women set to take booking photos has resulted in unreasonable delays, if it’s applied at all. From the complaint:
“The alleged ‘accommodation’ requires arrestees, regardless of the borough of arrest, to be transported to the Mass Arrest Processing Center located in Manhattan which has limited hours of operation. The process can add hours, if not days, to the arrest processing time, and is inconsistently applied.”
The lawsuit asks the court for a declaration that the NYPD’s current hijab removal policy is unconstitutional, as well as an injunction forcing the police department to “implement all necessary measures to ensure that this policy and practice is not continued.”