Kirsty Powell, an African American Muslim filed a lawsuit, in 2016 and it prompted the Long Beach Police Department to reverse its policy barring inmates from wearing religious head coverings.
She provided them with her identification information. When officers ran her name through their database, they discovered she had three misdemeanor warrants for petty theft, vehicle theft and resisting arrest, police said.
Powell was not aware that a warrant had been issued for a 2002 petty theft offense, her attorney said. The other warrants were issued after Powell’s sister had falsely used her name, according to the federal lawsuit.
As officers prepared to arrest Powell, her husband requested that a female officer be called to the scene since physical contact must be done by a woman, the lawsuit contends.
The officers refused and handcuffed Powell, according to the suit. She was then told she would have to remove her hijab.
Powell told the officers “that she wears a hijab in accordance with her religious practice and that it is her legal right to wear it,” the lawsuit said.
She was driven to the Long Beach police station, where she was booked and stripped of her hijab in front of other male officers and inmates, according to the lawsuit.
Powell was detained for 24 hours without her hijab. Once she was allowed to leave, she was given a property bag containing it.
“She was held in the jail overnight, forced to sit in a cell feeling distraught, vulnerable and naked without her headscarf to everyone that passed,” the lawsuit said. “She cried throughout the ordeal and experienced humiliation when both her religious beliefs and personal integrity were violated. She felt that the male officers and male inmates had seen parts of her body that they should not have seen, according to her religious beliefs.”
Shortly after her release, Powell reached out to CAIR, the Muslim civil rights organization, to go over her options.