Long Beach has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused its police officers of stripping a Muslim woman of her hijab during an arrest and making her spend a night in jail without it.
According to the federal lawsuit, male police officers forcibly removed Long Beach resident Kirsty Powell’s head covering when they took her into custody in 2015 even after she explained she wore it as part of her religious beliefs.
The officers made her take a booking photo without the covering and didn’t return it until she was bailed out of jail the next day, court documents say.
“She cried throughout the ordeal and experienced humiliation when both her religious beliefs and personal integrity were violated,” Powell’s lawsuit says. “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 Long Beach City Council voted on Tuesday to pay the settlement, which covers damages to Powell and her attorneys fees.
“The city decided to settle because we viewed the claims by her as meritorious,” Assistant City Attorney Monte Machit said.
Officers who arrested Powell were following the Long Beach Police Department’s policy, but that policy itself was in the wrong, according to Machit.
Until November, the department instructed jailers to confiscate religious head coverings, including “hats, veils, tunics, etc.”
Those rules were blatantly discriminatory, said Marwa Rifahie, a civil rights attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represented Powell.
“There really is no reason, unless someone is going to…
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