Police video controversy leads to renewed HIV training

LANSING – Video of a traffic stop that prompted allegations of HIV discrimination and drew national attention has now resulted in the Dearborn, Mich., Police Department agreeing to a new round of HIV-specific trainings for staff and officers.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad confirmed that he met with an HIV activist regarding the incident, which was caught on video by the police officer’s dashboard cam and published last month by The American Independent.

Ken Warnock, the activist who attended the meeting with Haddad, told TAI that the chief committed to a new round of staff trainings specific to HIV.

“[Haddad] really recognizes that the comments that were made during that traffic stop were demonstrative of a lack of knowledge, or even if the knowledge was there, that the comprehension of that knowledge wasn’t quite where it needs to be,” Warnock said. “So I think he wants to see some changes in that.”

Haddad said that the department and Warnock “agreed to get together on it [HIV-specific training],” and he called Warnock a “compelling resource.”

“I’ve handed it off to our training office,” Haddad said in a phone interview. He declined to discuss the meeting with Warnock any further, saying he believed it was an “administrative meeting.”

The Press and Guide newspaper reported Oct. 1 about the training.

The activist said he called the Dearborn Police Department on Sept. 20 after watching the video of the traffic stop posted by TAI. He offered to provide the training free of charge.

The incident involved Dearborn Police Officer David Lacey issuing a marijuana possession ticket to Shalandra Jones and a traffic ticket to her partner, Mark Scott. The video shows Lacey telling Jones that she should disclose her HIV-positive status whenever a police officer asks her to step out of a vehicle. Lacey said he was “pissed” that Jones hadn’t disclosed her status before he searched the vehicle, and he told the couple: “Honestly, if it wasn’t for that, I don’t think I would have wrote anybody for anything. But that kind of really aggravated me, you know what I mean? You got to tell me right away, ‘I’ve got this. I’ve got that.’ ‘Cause at that time, I wasn’t wearing any gloves.”

Michigan law does not require disclosure of HIV-positive status before a police search, and legal experts say Lacey was “out of line” for demanding such a disclosure. Health experts say Lacey was at very low risk of being infected with HIV during the stop.

Warnock works for Dearborn’s Oakwood Hospital where he manages the sterilization program and serves on the infection control board. He also teaches nursing students at Macomb Community College about blood-borne pathogens. He has offered to train the Dearborn Police on universal precautions and HIV.

“[Haddad] said that they’re very interested in bringing me in to meet with the staff to get that perspective of somebody who is not only HIV-positive, but works in the health care environment in infection control as well as teaches this at the college level,” Warnock said.

Haddad expressed dismay Warnock had talked about the meeting, although he said he felt Warnock’s training could “accelerate us to a higher level of training.”

Experts consulted by TAI said the incident showed a clear need for training on HIV and blood-borne pathogens, as well as sensitivity training on dealing with HIV-positive people.

Haddad declined to talk specifically about the incident involving Jones.

As for the video, which is available online, the chief said, “I haven’t looked at it yet.”

In spite of that admission, Haddad said there is not much to dispute.

“There’s no dispute here; we’re beyond needing to know what happened,” Haddad said of the incident, noting it was on video for people to review and make their own judgments. “It’s complete. It’s a captured event.”

Haddad said the incident remains under review and that the conclusions of that review could result in disciplinary action for Lacey. He said once the review is completed, he will meet with Jones and Scott, as well as their attorney, Joshua Moore of Detroit Legal Services, to discuss the situation.

“I want to talk to this man and woman,” said Haddad. “I owe that to them.” Haddad said he had set an appointment with Jones, Scott, and Moore, but he declined to say when it was. “I want to respect her sensitivity,” he explained.

Moore confirmed that he had been in touch with Dearborn police officials and that he and his client had arranged a tentative meeting with the chief. He declined to state when that meeting would be.