Francilla Daves, 47, an Orthodox Rastafarian, was falsely accused by a store security guard of shoplifting seven dollars worth of groceries, and when police were called, they forced her to remove her turban and reveal her dreadlocks. She said “a piece of her” was taken away when this occurred. It took her 11 years to grow the dreadlocks that reach the small of her back. “My hair is only for my king,” Daves said, referring to God. It is a sacred thing, a covenant; Orthodox Rastafarian women do not show their hair in public.
The incident began when a security guard accused her of stealing and called the police. Although Daves, a medical assistant, asked police to review the store’s tape to prove she hadn’t shoplifted, she was handcuffed and taken to the 107th Precinct. At the precinct, she was told to remove her turban because sometimes individuals hide things there. “I told them it was against my religion to show my hair and am not allowed to remove my turban,” Daves said, noting how she felt violated, humiliated and embarrassed when she was forced to show her hair. She then sat in a holding cell for nearly five hours before the police gave her a desk appearance ticket and said she could go. Although she asked for a private place to wrap her hair before leaving, she was not allowed that option, and everyone watched her wrap her hair.
While waiting for her court date, Daves was able to participate in a Second Chance program through the District Attorney’s Office in Queens. Her case was dismissed just before the April 3, 2017, court date because of discrepancies between what the security guard said and what was shown on the store’s video tape. She plans to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. She will be represented by attorney Ted Kessler in a legal action against the NYPD for violating her religious rights; a suit will also be filed against the store for false allegations.
When Daves told her high priest about the incident, he said that, under the circumstances, she did not need to cut her hair off, but had to fast, read the Bible and avoid interacting with people until she feels like herself again.