Cumberland County sheriff apologizes for release of photos of Muslim women arrested in Portland protest

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PORTLAND — Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce apologized Wednesday afternoon for actions by corrections officers following the mass arrests of civil rights protesters July 15.

Joyce said an internal investigation revealed officers did not follow jail policy when two photos of Muslim women without hijabs were publicly released.

“I offer my sincerest apologies to any of the individuals who were at all embarrassed that evening and to the Muslim community for the appearance that we were disrespecting their religious beliefs and practices,” Joyce said.

Joyce said officers followed the correct policy of requiring the women to remove the traditional Muslim covering of the head and neck, worn to preserve modesty, only in the presence of a female corrections officer.

Removing the hijab is required to ensure “the arrestee is not bringing weapons or contraband into the secure perimeter of the jail,” Joyce said in a press release.

Officers were also following policy by making the photos, he said.

But the officers were unfamiliar with jail policy regarding control of the images, which was not clearly explained, Joyce said in a press release. He blamed a “glitch in the photo process” that would not have been discovered before the incident.

A total of 18 protesters were brought to the jail early July 16, including a juvenile. Each was charged with a count of obstructing a public way for blocking Commercial Street following a Black Lives Matter rally in Lincoln Park.

Those arrested have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.