Jamaican police probe allegations woman’s dreadlocks were cut in custody

Jamaican police probe allegations woman’s dreadlocks were cut in custody
Nzinga King, 19, pictured before her dreadlocks were allegedly cut off by police in Jamaica. (Photo by Shirley McIntosh/Shirley McIntosh)

Police in Jamaica have ordered an internal investigation after a 19-year-old woman claimed an officer forcibly cut off her dreadlocks that she had grown since birth as part of her Rastafarian beliefs.

The alleged incident happened almost a year after Jamaica’s Supreme Court ruled that a school was within its rights to require a girl cut her dreadlocks to attend classes. The school, however, later said the student could attend without changing her hair.

The young woman and alleged victim, Nzinga King, was ordered jailed July 22 on charges stemming from an argument with police over enforcement of masking regulations to control the coronavirus.

“I’m so distraught. I’m so confused right now. This situation traumatized me a lot,” Nzinga King said.

“She said when she asked why they cut her locks, she was told they can pose a threat to her or other inmates,” said Shirley McIntosh, King’s mother.

Isat Buchanan, the lawyer representing King, said he is considering filing charges against the police officer, calling the alleged act a “breach of human dignity rights and freedom of expressions.”

“This is 2021. It is not like in the 1950s or 60s. This is something that just has to stop,” said Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, a member of the Advocacy Network, a coalition of Jamaicans focused on good governance and gender-based violence. “It is a blatant disrespect of this young lady’s right to her freedom of religion and self expression.”

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