Wanted Criminal Gets $85,000 In Taxpayer Money Because Hijab Removed For Booking
Kirsty Powell’s Arrest Changed How Long Beach Police Handle Religious Clothing
Long Beach, California – A Muslim woman was awarded $85,000 by the city of Long Beach in the settlement of a federal lawsuit where she had her hijab pulled off after she was arrested.
Kirsty Powell and her husband were pulled over during a traffic stop in May of 2015. Powell’s husband was driving a lowrider vehicle on the street. When officers ran Powell’s name through the database, it came back with three misdemeanor warrants, according to the Los Angeles Times. The warrants were for petty theft, vehicle theft and resisting arrest, according to police.
Powell’s husband requested that a female officer be called to the scene saying that physical contact must be done by a woman, according to the federal lawsuit. The officers did not call for a female officer and handcuffed Powell. She was told by police at that time she had to remove her hijab.
Powell was driven to the police station and booked and then had her hijab taken off, according to the lawsuit. She was detained for 24 hours without the hijab.
Powell filed her lawsuit in April of 2016 and claimed her First Amendment rights had been violated. According to the LA Times, the Long Beach Police Department changed its practices and now allows inmates to wear religious head coverings after they have been searched.
“After a thorough assessment of our policy, which included reviewing the procedures used by other law enforcement agencies in the region, it was determined an amendment to our policy was necessary,” the police department told the newspaper.
“The Long Beach Police Department respects the religious rights and beliefs of all people, and continues to review policy, as law enforcement is an ever-evolving profession.”
Female officers are required now to remove a female inmate’s headscarf when necessary and it must be done outside the presence of male officers and inmates, said Monte Machit, Long Beach assistant city attorney.
“In our view, the removal of the hijab by a male officer, in the presence of other males, while consistent with the then-existing Long Beach Police Department policy, may have violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act,” Machit said, according to the LA Times.
“The 9thCircuit [Court] has not specifically weighed in on whether removing the hijab actually violated [the law], but we believed that the existing policy was not consistent with the Act.”
There was nothing that forced the city to make the payment, they simply paid because they didn’t want to fight the lawsuit.