Ventura County Agrees to Pay $75K Settlement to Woman Who Accused Deputy of Yanking Hijab

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Jennifer Hyatt is shown in an undated photo. Hyatt claims in a federal lawsuit that Ventura County Sheriff's Office deputies removed her hijab and refused to give her an alternate form of cover when they arrested her in 2017. (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Jennifer Hyatt is shown in an undated photo. Hyatt claims in a federal lawsuit that Ventura County Sheriff's Office deputies removed her hijab and refused to give her an alternate form of cover when they arrested her in 2017. (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Ventura County has approved a $75,000 settlement to a woman who accused a deputy of forcibly removing her hijab while in custody, an advocacy group announced Wednesday.

Despite the agreement, however, the Sheriff’s Office maintained that Jeniffer Hyatt’s hijab was not aggressively taken off her head at the Ventura County Jail on New Year’s Day 2017.

In a statement, the agency said it consented to the deal to “save taxpayers the expense of further litigation.”

Deputies detained Hyatt, a nurse from Newbury Park,  on suspicion of battery when an off-duty officer saw her and her husband arguing in Thousand Oaks, according to an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Los Angeles.

Hyatt complained of being hurt but the officers ignored her, the group said.

She said once at the Ventura County Jail, a deputy “yanked off” her hijab even though she repeatedly asked to  keep it on.

The Sheriff’s Office disputed that account, saying video and audio footage from the facility’s surveillance system indicate that Hyatt’s head covering was “removed in a gentle and respectful manner” to assess injury on her head and for security reasons.

In May 2018, after CAIR-LA announced a lawsuit on behalf of Hyatt against the department, county officials said they did not plan to release the recordings to “maintain confidentiality…despite false allegations.”

Authorities conceded that Hyatt should have been given an alternative form of headwear. The Sheriff’s Office said it started offering paper hijabs soon after the woman’s detention—before the lawsuit.

In addition to the $75,000 payment, the agreement would update the department’s religious accommodation policy to include head coverings, according to officials.

“The County and Sheriff’s Office believe this settlement reflects a fair outcome for both sides and is a good result for the citizens of Ventura County,” the agency said in a statement.

The terms of the deal still needed to be approved by the county Board of Supervisors, according to CAIR-LA.

Similar lawsuits have led to policies protecting head coverings in the city of Long Beach and San Bernardino and Orange counties, the organizaton said.

“While municipalities across the country are allowing arrestees to retain religious head coverings, California municipalities have been slow to enact policies that prevent the discrimination this lawsuit seeks to prevent,” CAIR-LA civil rights attorney Marwa Rifahie said in a statement.

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