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NYPD Changes Policy On Religious Headwear

The NYPD is no longer requiring the removal of religious head coverings in their mugshots, as long as their faces are not obstructed in the photo.

Two years ago, Muslim women joined forces for a high profile lawsuit against the NYPD. When Jamilla Clark and Arwa Aziz were arrested, the department ordered the women to remove their hijabs. The women claim that this demand caused a great deal of shame and embarrassment.

Jamilla Clark recalled how emotionally taxing it was to be told to remove her hijab. Clark revealed that she broke down in tears, claiming she felt naked as they took the booking photo. Clark was arrested on a low-level charge of violating an order of protection.

In an effort to settle the lawsuit, the NYPD agreed to change its policy. Under the new agreement, the police department claims they will “take all possible steps, when consistent with personal safety,” to allow prisoners to keep their headwear on in order to respect their “privacy, rights and religious beliefs.” Exceptions will only be made if the officer feels as though it is being used to hide weapons.

The settlement agreement, reached in Federal District Court in Manhattan, would apply not only to hijabs, but also to other religious headwear, like the skullcaps and wigs worn by Orthodox Jews and the turbans worn by Sikhs.

The NYPD has been slowly evolving to be more inclusive and respectful to religious beliefs. It was just four years ago that they allowed officers to wear religious headwear on the job, and grow facial hair that is associated with some regions. This was a big deal for the Sikh community, as they have fought for a long time to be able to wear their turbans in the workplace.

Patricia Miller, chief of the Special Federal Litigation Division of the city Law Department, said in a statement issued Monday evening that the settlement agreement was “a good reform for the N.Y.P.D.”

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