A Muslim civil liberties group sued the city of Long Beach and its police chief Monday on behalf of a woman who allegedly had her religious head scarf forcibly removed by a local police officer.
According to the complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, Kirsty Powell and her husband — who are black — were in a car pulled over by a male Long Beach Police Department officer.
Powell was arrested on an outstanding warrant, but was told by the officer that she would have to remove her head scarf, according to the suit filed by the Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American- Islamic Relations.
After making several requests for a female officer to search her, Powell was told by male officers that she “was not allowed to wear her hijab” and that policemen were “allowed to touch a woman,” according to the civil rights complaint.
A message left with the Long Beach City Attorney’s Office was not immediately returned.
Powell contends that while she was handcuffed at the station house, the arresting officer allegedly forcibly removed her religious head covering and forced her to remain exposed overnight, in plain view of other male officers and dozens of inmates.
During her booking and subsequent search, at least four female officers were on duty, including one that escorted her to a holding cell after her headscarf had been removed, the lawsuit states.
“The actions taken by the Long Beach Police officers were unwarranted and a serious violation of Mrs. Powell’s bodily integrity,” said CAIR-LA attorney Yalda Satar. “The manner in which Mrs. Powell was treated by LBPD officers was simply a show of authority over a woman of color who was unable to protect herself, and is another example of the type of discrimination faced by women who wear a hijab.”
— City News Service