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Las Vegas, NV - Police to Settle Civil Rights Lawsuit with Orthodox Jewish Detective

Published on: January 22, 2009 07:34 AM
By: Las Vegas Sun
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 Metro Police Detective Steve Riback, at Chabad of Southern Nevada in April 2007, is expected to receive a settlement from the department and permission to allow a short beard and head covering in accordance with his faith as an Orthodox Jew. Metro is set to approve the payment Monday. Metro Police Detective Steve Riback, at Chabad of Southern Nevada in April 2007, is expected to receive a settlement from the department and permission to allow a short beard and head covering in accordance with his faith as an Orthodox Jew. Metro is set to approve the payment Monday.

Las Vegas, NV - The Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs is scheduled to approve a $350,000 payment next week for Detective Steve Riback, an observant Orthodox Jew who claimed he was experiencing religious discrimination on the job when he was prohibited from wearing a head covering and a beard, even though his religion requires it.

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The settlement is set to be approved Monday by Metro’s fiscal affairs committee. It is listed as an item under the meeting’s “consent agenda” — a group of varying fiscal matters that is usually approved with no discussion.

“We believe that it is a fair settlement, and we hope that Fiscal Affairs will approve it,” said attorney Craig Anderson, who represents the Metropolitan Police Department.

Riback’s attorneys, Nevada ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland and general counsel Allen Lichtenstein, would not discuss details of the settlement until it is formally approved.

“We think it’s a fair and reasonable settlement in a disputed case and we hope the fiscal affairs committee will approve it,” said Carla Alston, director of the department’s Public Information Office.

The real success, Lichtenstein said, is non-monetary: Riback will be allowed to wear a short beard and a head covering.

In August, a judge ruled Riback was allowed to wear the short beard, but left the issue of the head covering up to a jury. The settlement is evidence, however, that Metro has decided not to take the issue to trial.

What’s not certain is whether the detective will be allowed to wear a yarmulke, a small skull cap traditionally worn by members of the Orthodox faith. Lichtenstein would say only that Riback can cover his head. The detective has expressed willingness to wear a department-issued police hat or a baseball cap, as his faith does not mandate a yarmulke specifically, only that the head be covered.

The detective was not available for comment. He works in the department’s quality assurance office, a section dedicated to reviewing Metro policy.

In his current job, Riback is nonuniformed and has little interaction with the public. Before his current position, Riback was a detective in the vice section, where undercover officers are permitted to wear beards and hats. The facial hair became a problem when Riback switched to the desk job and was ordered to shave. He obliged, but requested a religious accommodation to wear the beard and head cover. Metro denied both.

The department initially told Riback that law enforcement officials must remain “religion neutral.” At the time, however, the department allowed officers to wear plain hats indoors and pins denoting affiliations with religious groups.

As a result of Riback’s case, the ACLU and the police department have worked together to ensure the police policy manual is clear as it pertains to procedures for future questions of religious accommodation, Lichtenstein said.
Riback has been with Metro for more than 10 years. His attorneys say he hasn’t expressed any plans to leave.



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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 22, 2009 at 09:44 AM Howie Says:

A Kiddush Hashem !! Stand up and be proud !! We need more Jews like him!!

2

 Jan 22, 2009 at 09:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Steve is definitely a proud yid, and a walking kiddush Hashem!! May he go machayil el choyil!!

3

 Jan 22, 2009 at 09:51 AM n Says:

where is his beard now in the picture?

4

 Jan 22, 2009 at 10:21 AM Anonymous Says:

Why isn't everybody here complaining against the ACLU. They're supposed to be self-hating Jews, remember?

5

 Jan 22, 2009 at 11:58 AM srg says Says:

Reply to #3  
n Says:

where is his beard now in the picture?

if you will read under the picture it says that picture was tsaken in 2007 its an old pidture. read and understand what you are reading!!! hello!!!!!!

6

 Jan 22, 2009 at 01:10 PM Yisroel Says:

Interesting.. He takes a job that's against halacha in the first place then sues on the grounds of religious discrimination!

7

 Jan 22, 2009 at 05:37 PM =) Says:

Reply to #6  
Yisroel Says:

Interesting.. He takes a job that's against halacha in the first place then sues on the grounds of religious discrimination!

Yisroel, why don't you explain yourself. Why is his job against halacha?

8

 Jan 22, 2009 at 08:10 PM friends from NY Says:

STEVE WE LOVE YOU!!!!! ur an incredible guy with a lot of true mesiras nefesh and you are a true chayal (or detective) of hashem! (and your wife too:)

9

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