NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two Muslim-American women and a non-profit group on Friday sued the New York City Police Department for forcing Muslim women and others to remove their hijabs or other religious head coverings in post-arrest photographs.
Arwa Aziz and Jamilla Clark, who were arrested in unrelated incidents, say in the lawsuit that they were forced to remove their hijabs by the NYPD to take post-arrest photographs.
Turning Point for Women and Families, a non-profit organization based in the borough of Queens that supports Muslim women and girls who have been victims of domestic violence, joined the lawsuit.
The suit challenges a 2015 NYPD policy requiring that booking photos have an unobstructed view of the subject’s head, ears and face, requiring the removal of any headwear. The plaintiffs contend that policy violates the women’s freedom of speech, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and New York state law.
A representative for the NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The lawsuit alleged that in January 2017, after Clark’s ex-husband complained that she had violated an order of protection, an NYPD officer took a post-arrest photo of the New Jersey resident, as she wept and begged to put her hijab back on.
“The officer ignored Ms. Clark, stored the photograph in an online database and in Ms. Clark’s paper file, and showed it to numerous male officers,” court documents said.
The lawsuit added that another officer had openly mocked the Muslim faith.
In August 2017, Brooklyn resident Aziz was arrested after her sister-in-law obtained a protective order against her on what Aziz said in the lawsuit were false pretenses. While in custody, Aziz begged officers to allow her to push her hijab back slightly to expose her hairline and ears for the post-arrest photo.
“Frantic, weeping and bareheaded in a hallway full of men who do not belong to her immediate family, Ms. Aziz felt broken,” the lawsuit said.
The suit seeks unspecified financial damages and for the NYPD to discontinue its practice.
Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Scott Malone and Susan Thomas