Muslim woman forced to remove hijab by police files complaint against Ferndale
A Muslim woman sued the town of Ferndale, claiming the town violated her religious rights by forcing her to remove her hijab for a booking photo after her arrest.
The Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) filed a complaint last week in United States District Court on behalf of Helana Bowe, who was arrested by Ferndale Police on June 21 for allegedly driving with an expired license plate. . During the traffic stop, she told police she had a Taser to defend herself after being assaulted earlier in the year.
Police arrested her, claiming state law requires people to be licensed to own a Taser.
At the police department, an officer searched Bowe, although she asked for a woman. She was then forced to remove her hijab for a booking photo, in violation of her religious beliefs, CAIR-MI said.
CAIR-MI executive director Dawud Walid said the group decided to press charges after officials in Ferndale refused to discuss the violation of Bowe’s religious beliefs.
“By not formally responding to our concerns expressed on behalf of our client’s violation of civil rights, we have had no choice but to prosecute the Ferndale Police,” Walid said in a statement. “Although the city prides itself on being a municipality of diversity and inclusion, it appears its police department is not serious about this claim when it comes to Muslims.”
CAIR-MI staff attorney Amy Doukoure said police had mismanaged the case from the moment they stopped in Bowe.
The entire conduct of the Ferndale Police Department on June 21, 2021 was problematic, beginning with its dragnetting of the city of Detroit side on the Eight Mile Highway seeking to engage in traffic stops of individuals who have no connection with the town of Ferndale, ”Doukoure mentioned. “The problematic conduct of the Ferndale Police only escalated when officers allegedly violated Ms Bowe’s constitutionally protected religious rights by subjecting her to an unnecessary cross-search and forcibly removing her hijab for a booking photo. It’s surprising that a city that prides itself on its great diversity and claims to strive for inclusiveness finds itself silent about its own callous treatment of a religious minority in its care and custody. ”
In a statement in September, Ferndale Police Chief Dennis Emmi defended his officers but acknowledged there was room for improvement.
“Our agents were just following departmental policy, which includes hair photography as an important identifying feature,” Emmi said. “Now, looking at the case and the circumstances, I see the opportunity for our policies to evolve to better meet the needs of our community.”
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