Woman berated by cop for not disclosing her HIV wins lawsuit
DEARBORN - A Detroit woman wins a $40,000 settlement with the Dearborn Police Department.
An officer was caught on tape berating her during a traffic stop, angry because she didn't mention she had HIV.
This officer thought he could catch HIV from Shalandra Jones and bring it back to his family.
"I feel relieved, because this has been a battle," she said.
A battle that began in August, 2012 for Shalandra Jones when she says a Dearborn police officer pulled her and her husband over for a broken tail light.
Everything seemed fine until officer David Lacey searched their car and then her purse.
"He found my medicine and he asked me what were they for?" Jones said. "I just told him, I told him it's for my HIV. He said what? I said for my HIV. He said 'You just pissed me off.'"
The officer decided to ticket Jones for a misdemeanor marijuana possession because her medical card had just expired something he said he wasn't going to do, until he learned she was infected with HIV.
On the police dash cam, Lacey can be heard saying: "I'm digging through your purse, all your piercings and stuff in there, if I got stuck with one of your earrings or something like that ..."
He continued, "Honestly if it wasn't for that I don't think I would've wrote anybody for anything, but that kind of aggravated me."
Jones said she was in disbelief.
"He said you need to tell me this," Jones said. "'I have kids at home, a wife at home; I don't take any of that crap home.'"
People with HIV are not required to tell police they have it. Jones, who has been in remission since 2002, says she felt just as vulnerable and broken as the day she was diagnosed with the virus.
"I needed to fix it, because I needed to reflect back to when I got my diagnosis," she said. "I had to remember when I lost friends and when people would treat me different because I was HIV positive."
Devastated about what happened, Jones eventually sued the city of Dearborn and likely because the officer's uneducated actions were caught on tape,.the city decided to settle.
A spokeswoman for Dearborn issued a statement that said:
"Respect for everyone is emphasized in all police department training. We believe this was an isolated incident with a single officer and not reflective of the behavior of our police department."
"My joy comes from getting my point across," she said.
Jones is an HIV advocate. She works at a hospital helping patients deal with the virus.
In the end, she was awarded $40,000, but she says the fact she was able to stand up for herself and others with HIV, was payment enough.
"I'm proud of myself," she said. "I couldn't say that at the beginning. Today I can say I am proud of myself. I have never had such a rough time in my life but I came out on top."
The medical marijuana ticket was thrown out and the officer who performed the stop is still on the force. He received additional training after the incident but has not received any formal disciplinary action.
Jones said she has not been contacted since the incident with any apology by the officer or the city and that it would have meant more to her than the money.