A Muslim woman is suing a California police department over claims they forced her to remove her headscarf while in custody.
Jennifer Hyatt, a nurse from Newbury Park, was left feeling ‘naked and humiliated’ after a deputy snatched the scarf from her head, in front of a group of men, and refused to provide an alternative hair covering, while she was detained by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, her lawsuit stated.
The 44-year-old, who was arrested in connection with a dispute with her husband, said she tried to explain to officers on New Year’s Day, 2017, that she must cover her head and dress modestly, in accordance with her faith, the LA Times reports.
But they refused to listen to her, according to the lawsuit.
Telling them she needed her hijab as a practicing Muslim, one deputy allegedly replied: ‘Not in here, you’re not.’
Jennifer Hyatt, a nurse from Newbury Park, was left feeling ‘naked and humiliated’ after a deputy snatched the scarf from her head, in front of a group of men, by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
‘I am seeking justice because I do still have the right to be a covered Muslim woman — even in jail,’ Hyatt said in a statement issued Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
‘I was spoken to like I was trash. My hijab was yanked off my head in front of many men despite my continued requests to wear it.’
All charges against Hyatt were later dismissed.
She was initially arrested after an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy noticed her arguing with her husband.
Ventura County deputies were called to the scene and arrested Hyatt, despite her claims of injuries, for domestic battery, The Times reports. She was later bailed out by her husband.
Neither the sheriff’s department nor the distract attorney has not commented on the lawsuit but other law enforcement agencies who have breached prisoner’s religious rights have been forced to settle with other inmates.
‘I am seeking justice because I do still have the right to be a covered Muslim woman — even in jail,’ Hyatt said
They include a Muslim woman forced to remove her hijab by officers arresting her on a shoplifting warrant, who was just awarded $85,000 by the city of Long Beach.
Prisoners’ religious freedoms are protected under the First Amendment, as well as the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act which allows prisoners the right to garments or diets that match their faiths, unless they pose a security risk.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s Custody Services Division said they may ask a person to remove a religious garment during a search, but that item would be immediately returned to them, or the prisoner would be provided with a transparent one.
Hyatt’s lawsuit stated that she was not allowed to wear a head scarf for the entire four hours in custody before she was bailed out by her husband.
‘Even though she had been thoroughly searched and did not pose any valid security concerns,’ the suit said.
In February this year, New York City was ordered to shell out $180,000 to three Muslim women for forcing them to take off their hijabs for mugshots.
Each woman settled for $60,000, the New York Daily News reported.