NYPD, religious head coverings, lawsuit, settlement

New York City Settles $17.5 Million Class-Action Lawsuit For Wrongfully Removing Religious Head Coverings During Arrests

NYPD Officers arrested two Muslim-American women and allegedly forced them to remove their hijabs to take photos of them.

The city of New York has settled a $17.5 million lawsuit filed by two Muslim-American women, Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz, who claimed police harassed them. The women said that after they were arrested, the officers allegedly forced them to take off their hijabs to be photographed.

The women’s initial filing was settled on April 5 in Manhattan federal court. District Judge Analisa Torres approved it under the guidance of a class action settlement that set a precedent for the women to sue regarding the procedure for “men and women required to remove religious attire before being photographed.” 

The estimated total payouts for the settlement are set to be just over $13 million, not including the legal fees for the filing parties. According to the Associated Press, the payout pool could increase if more of the nearly 4,000 eligible class members submit individual claims. Each class action claim recipient could expect to be paid between $7,824 and $13,125.

Aziz and Clark, who filed the initial lawsuit in 2018, said that they felt shamed and violated when officers made them remove their religious head coverings to take their mugshots after being arrested for allegedly violating orders of protection. 

Both Aziz and Clark claimed that the detainment was wrongful. 

“When they forced me to take off my hijab, I felt as if I were naked,” Clark said in a statement. “I’m not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt.”

The filing’s traction has spurred reform for future New York City Police Department procedures. As of 2020, both men and women are now allowed to wear hijabs and head coverings while taking mugshot photos so long as their faces are not obstructed.

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department, told outlets, “This settlement resulted in a positive reform for the NYPD. The agreement carefully balances the department’s respect for firmly held religious beliefs with the important law enforcement need to take arrest photos.”

Anyone forced to take off their head coverings during an arrest or detainment from March 16, 2014, to Aug. 23, 2021, is eligible to be considered for the settlement.

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