Non-profit advocacy group Turning Point for Women and Families has filed a proposed civil rights class action lawsuit against the City of New York over its police department’s policy of forcing arrestees to remove religious headwear for official booking photos. The two individual plaintiffs who filed the 27-page complaint along with Turning Point for Women allege they were subject to the NYPD’s allegedly unconstitutional policy—March 2015’s Interim Order 29—claiming they were forced to remove their hijabs and expose their hair while being threatened with prosecution should they not comply.
The first named plaintiff was arrested “for violating a bogus protective order filed by her abusive ex-husband,” the lawsuit says. The complaint claims that after being forced to remove her hijab, the plaintiff “felt exposed and violated … as if she were naked in a public space.” Further, the case says an NYPD officer ignored the plaintiff as she begged to put her hijab back on.
“Another officer openly mocked the Muslim faith,” the lawsuit then states. “[The plaintiff]—humiliated, distraught, and panicked from this coerced violation of her religious practice—still worries that her photograph is regularly seen by NYPD officers or members of the public.”
The second named plaintiff experienced a similar episode eight months later, the lawsuit continues. The woman was arrested “for violating a bogus protective order filed by her vindictive sister-in-law,” the suit claims, and was photographed by the NYPD without her hijab “for nearly five minutes,” allegedly “in full view of approximately one dozen male NYPD officers and more than thirty male inmates.” According to the complaint, the officers refused the woman’s requests to keep her hijab on during booking, exposing her hairline and ears while stating that “it’s the law.”
“Frantic, weeping, and bareheaded in a hallway full of men who do not belong to her immediate family, [the plaintiff] felt broken,” the lawsuit reads.
In addition to monetary compensation for members of the proposed class, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the NYPD from any further enforcement of its policy requiring the removal of religious headwear for booking photos.