A cop’s irrational fear of HIV cost this city $40,000

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

A Michigan police officer stopped a car for a broken tail light, but ticketed the passenger because she has HIV.


Dashcam footage of the incident shows Dearborn Police officer David Lacey patting down and searching the driver and passenger Shalandra Jones after apparently smelling marijuana from their car. When he found HIV medication in Jones’ purse, he became enraged.

"You just made me mad," Officer Lacey is heard telling Jones in the footage, which was recorded by a camera inside the cop car. The video was obtained by American Independent, a group that sponsors investigative journalism, through a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request.

The city of Dearborn announced this week that it will pay $40,000 to settle a civil-rights lawsuit brought by the passenger Shalandra Jones.

Here’s the exchange, according to the American Independent:

LACEY: Hey, Shalandra, what are these ones?
JONES: I’m HIV positive.
LACEY: OK, that’s (inaudible) probably something you want to tell me when you get out of the car, OK? If you ever get pulled out for any reason, you want to tell us, OK?
JONES: Alright.
LACEY: ‘Cause I want to make sure I put gloves on and all that stuff, OK? What is it?
JONES: [inaudible]
LACEY: For your HIV? OK?

"Honestly, if it wasn’t for that, I don’t think I would have wrote anybody for anything,” Lacey told Jones. “But that kind of really aggravated me, you know what I mean?”

Lacey issued Jones a ticket for a criminal misdemeanor for marijuana possession. She was carrying an expired medical marijuana license. (Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2008.)


Lacey is heard saying he "did not want to take any diseases home to his family."

People living with HIV in Michigan are not obligated to share their status with police officers, legal experts say. State law only requires a person living with HIV to disclose his or her status to sexual partners prior to engaging in sex, according to Poz Magazine, a publication for people living with HIV/AIDS. Officer Lacey would have had to exchange certain bodily fluids, like semen or blood, with Jones to acquire the virus.


Officer Lacey is still employed by the department. He was required to attend additional training sessions after this incident, but was not the subject of formal disciplinary action.

“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,” said Mary Laundroche, director of public information for the city of Dearborn.


A lawyer representing Jones said Dearborn city attorneys offered to dismiss the criminal charge against Jones as long as she would waive her right to sue the city for violating her rights, according to Poz Magazine.

The suit asked the federal court to punish the city for releasing the dash cam video of the incident without redacting Jones’ name and identity, Poz Magazine reported.


"I'm glad that Shalandra got some justice. It was a pretty clear cut case with the video. What happened to her was awful. No one should have to go through that," said Jones' attorney, Detroit Legal Services President Joshua Moore.

This story was updated to include comment from the Dearborn police department.