DEARBORN – A local Muslim woman along with a Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan spokesman have questioned the protocol of the city’s police department after the woman was forced to remove her headscarf in the presence of male officers during a “facial recognition” procedure.
Rachel Chinavare said she was made to sit in a waiting area in the station without her hijab and then was forced to walk into a room containing five male officers to retrieve it from a locker after her request to have it brought to her in a separate room was refused. Chinavare said she felt embarrassed and was denied her religious need for privacy and modesty in the presence of men.
Chinavare, age 18, had been charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from a dispute with her mother’s boyfriend, who she said was intoxicated at the time in the family’s backyard hot tub. She said they were engaged in loud and lewd behavior while the pair’s bathing suits were seen laying outside of the hot tub. Chinavare had been studying with a friend before she heard noises coming from outside and went with him to investigate the situation.
Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad said that officers followed standard procedure during the night regarding the facial identification process and in responding to the call and allegation of assault by the boyfriend as well.
“The arresting officer exercised great sensitivity to the young lady, explaining the entire process and allowing her the opportunity to obtain the required bond,” he said. “She was investigated at the station and released in less than one hour. Booking procedures were followed as a photograph must be taken. This was explained to her in full and she appeared to be cooperative.”
He also noted that she has the right to a fair trial if one is needed.
Haddad added that he is actively trying to hire more women at the station to better represent the community but noted that only men were working at the station that night, as Chinavare also recounted.
Chinavare was also not allowed to continue wearing her hijab while waiting because it is perceived by the department guidelines as a potential hazard for despondent people who have been arrested and may wish to hang themselves. Haddad said that belts, shoelaces and other items are also emoved and put in lockers because of the policy.
But Chinavare said she was cooperative after her initial disbelief over being asked to remove the hijab and could not have been perceived as a threat to harm herself.
Dawud Walid of CAIR-MI said he was surprised to hear about Dearborn’s policies in treating Muslim women wearing a hijab and respecting their religious need for privacy among male officers.
“Headscarves are allowed for Muslim women in state correctional facilities as long as they are not high risk, and taking pictures while having a hijab on is good enough for the Michigan driver’s license and for the federal government to get a passport, so why can’t it be good enough for the city of Dearborn?”
Walid said that he would like to speak with the department about possibly instituting similar protocols to the Canton Police Department, which has begun using a policy that allows Muslim women to wear headscarves during the booking process which includes taking a picture.
“That’s a model I would hope Dearborn Police would take up,” he said.
Regarding the rule of taking away headscarves, belts, shoelaces and other items, Haddad said it was the “best practice and policy for everyone’s protection.”