A Detroit woman is suing the city of Dearborn over how a police officer treated her during a 2012 traffic stop once he learned she was HIV-positive.
Shalandra Jones alleges her constitutional right to privacy and rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated when, “demonstrating his own prejudices,” the officer revealed her condition to others, “berated and humiliated” her for not saying she has HIV before a search and then “unreasonably and discriminatorily detained and charged” her “solely on the basis of her HIV positive status,” according to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
The suit, which also names the officer, seeks unspecified damages as well as a permanent injunction requiring Dearborn to develop and adopt policies for hiring, supervising and training its police officers.
The aim is to prevent officers from discriminating against others who have HIV or AIDS, said attorney Joshua Moore, president of Detroit Legal Services, which is representing Jones. “We really want the problem fixed,” he said. “It cannot be happening.”
Neither Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad nor Dearborn city officials returned calls seeking comment Monday.
Jones’ vehicle, driven by a companion, was stopped Aug. 3, 2012, reportedly for a broken tail light and she ultimately was ticketed for marijuana possession. The police officer said he spelled marijuana; Jones, an authorized medical marijuana patient, told him she had the drug, according to the suit. The officer began searching the vehicle and Jones’ belongings when he found the driver did not have a license, the document said.
When Jones told him pills in her purse were for her illness, the officer responded: “You just made me mad!”
Police dashboard video from the stop was obtained by the American Independent, a national news network, and posted on YouTube.
In the video clip, the officer repeatedly mentioned his fear of being exposed to HIV, at one point saying: “I don’t want to catch something ... I don’t want that (expletive). I got a family.”
The lawsuit also quotes the officer as saying: “Dearborn does not have that many people living with HIV, and the police do not like people with HIV.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV is not transmitted through casual contact.
On the video, the officer is recorded telling Jones she was ticketed because he was “aggravated” she hadn’t disclosed her HIV-positive status before the search.
The officer’s statements were “cruel, discriminatory as to her disability, and did cause emotional harm and embarrassment,” according to the lawsuit.
In September, Dearborn dismissed a misdemeanor marijuana charge against Jones, her attorneys said.
Soon after the incident gained national attention in 2012, Haddad told The Detroit News the department would undergo training to improve interactions with people with HIV or AIDS.
Moore said he met with Haddad and referred him to a local group willing to coordinate the training. But as of this month, no plans had been pursued, he said, and it was unclear if any ever were.
“We realized they were not serious about correcting any situation,” Moore said.