NYPD can’t force Muslim women to remove hijab for photos: judge


Almost a year after the New York City Police Department changed its policy to allow religious headgear in photo bookings, a federal judge gave the weight of court precedent in a ruling making assert the allegations of Muslim women who were allegedly forced to remove their hijabs.

“Does the Constitution of the United States authorize the [NYPD] to require a practicing Muslim woman to remove her hijab when seated for an arrest photo? »US District Judge Analisa torres asked in the first few lines of its 18-page decision.

“The Court considers not,” she immediately replied.

Decision says recent NYPD policy change did not prevent trial by Muslim women Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz, who sued the ministry with civil rights group Turning Point for Women and Families in 2018.

Their lawyer Andrew F. Wilson, partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, called the decision “important” and “revolutionary”.

“This is an important and revolutionary recognition that the First Amendment protects religious headgear during arrest photographs,” Wilson told Law & Crime in a statement. “Our work to secure compensation for the thousands of people affected by the old policy continues.”

While the trial of Muslim women spurred policy change, the change affected religious headgear in all faiths, including those worn by Sikhs and Jews.

Judge Torres found the now abandoned policy against religious freedom and the NYPD’s own investigative interests.

“Allowing an arrested person to maintain their ordinary appearance in a reservation photograph does not undermine the legitimate interest in keeping a photographic record of those arrested,” she wrote. “The United States Department of State, USCIS, and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles allow all religious headgear in photographs used for identification purposes.”

Other local police departments across the United States are also adopting this policy, and those that have not have also been the subject of litigation.

“The Michigan, California, Minnesota and Maine Police Departments also allow those arrested to wear religious headgear when sitting for a photo ID,” Torres wrote, adding in a note. footer that law enforcement in Dearborn Heights, Mich., is preventing publication of reservation photographs. Muslim women without headgear.

The November settlement that led to the NYPD’s policy change to align more closely with other police departments late last year failed to resolve damages claims, which Torres brought forward on Friday. .

Lawyer Albert Fox Cahn, who also represents women as executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, also celebrated the decision.

“This opinion argues that the NYPD cannot violate our Constitution with impunity,” Cahn wrote. “We are proud to have put an end to the abusive practices of the department, but the fight continues to obtain justice for New Yorkers previously stripped of their hats and their rights.”

She noted that allowing devout people to wear their usual clothes had good practical reasons, as well as civil rights.

“The plaintiffs rightly observe that those arrested who do not wear headgear are just as capable, if not more, of altering their appearance after a booking photo by changing their hairstyle or facial jewelry,” he said. opinion and order. “In fact, photographing the arrested person in their ordinary appearance likely reinforces law enforcement interest in identification – rather than hampering that interest – because those arrested who have a sincere religious belief that compels them to wearing a head covering are likely to wear that same head covering when the need to identify them arises.

Clark and Aziz can pursue their claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the New State Constitution. York. The judge dismissed the claim for punitive damages.

spokesperson for the New York City Legal Department Nick paolucci said the city did not agree with the court’s finding.

“The NYPD has a new headgear policy that allows individuals to leave their religious headgear on except in very limited circumstances,” Paolucci told Law & Crime in an email. “The policy is more progressive than the policies of most of the other major police services in the country. “

Update — Sept. 5:01 PM: This story has been updated to include comments from the Complainants’ legal team.

Read the decision below:

(NYPD vehicle image via YouTube screenshot)

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