In the wake of a lawsuit alleging officers forcibly removed a Muslim woman’s hijab before booking her into jail, the Long Beach Police Department has changed its policy to let detainees wear headscarves and other religious items while in custody unless there’s a safety concern.
Until last month, Long Beach police barred prisoners from keeping any type of religious head covering with them behind bars. Department procedures listed “hats, veils, tunics, etc.,” along with items to be confiscated like cigarettes, shoelaces and belts.
But last month, Long Beach police Chief Robert Luna issued an order immediately overruling that policy, according to the department.
“If an arrestee is wearing a religious head covering, employees shall make all reasonable efforts to allow this practice, except where safety and security concerns dictate otherwise,” Long Beach police spokeswoman Marlene Arrona said in an email.
In practice, this means inmates will generally be allowed to keep the item unless jailers are worried the person will use it to harm him or herself, according to Long Beach’s jail administrator Tom Behrens.
“Quite honestly unless there’s a situation … where this person is distraught, potentially suicidal, I can’t imagine taking a headscarf away,” Behrens said.
Luna’s Nov. 8 order isn’t comprehensive. For instance, it doesn’t address whether inmates will be allowed to wear head coverings in booking photos, which is a pivotal component of the lawsuit that spurred the policy change.
But Behrens said that the booking photo issue hasn’t come up in the year or so he’s run Long Beach’s jail. The department is still deciding what to do in those cases, he said.
Police officials are working on finalizing a new written policy in line with Luna’s order, Arrona said.
Luna issued the order more than six months after a Muslim woman sued the city and Luna, alleging officers violated her civil rights and humiliated her by stripping her of her headscarf.
The lawsuit alleges that two officers who arrested Long Beach resident Kirsty Powell forcibly removed her hijab even though she explained she wore it as part of her religious beliefs.
On May 5, 2015, officers pulled over Powell, 33, and her husband near Market Street and Long Beach Boulevard.
Powell’s lawsuit alleges officers said they stopped the couple because they were in a low-rider. Police later said the car’s hydraulic suspension was unsafe, leading to the traffic stop.
After pulling the couple over, the officers discovered there were three misdemeanor warrants out for Powell’s arrest, one each for vehicle theft, petty theft, and resisting arrest, police said shortly after the incident.
A larger societal shift could be what drives law enforcement to adopt procedures that are more sensitive to inmates’ religions, said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that studies policing issues.
“What I think is happening is as our western kind of Christianity-centric society is becoming more informed about the religious apparel and accouterments of other religions, you’re starting to see accommodations be made and comfort levels rising.”
As we noted in our first post on this Muslim fugitive:
Tareq Oubrou, director of the Bordeaux Mosque, said on May 7 that wearing a hijab, or Islamic headscarf, is not a mandatory religious practice for women.
Long Beach got duped…by Hamas-linked CAIR and a fugitive.