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A decorated Memphis police officer is suing the Nashville Metro Police Department after he claimed they rescinded a job offer when they found out he had HIV.

Nashville police labeled the cop as a ‘danger to the public,’ the officer, who has not been named, claimed.

The cop was aware he was HIV-positive long before the Nashville police found out and has medical records showing his viral load as untraceable and untransmissible, calling him no ‘threat to co-workers or members of the community.’ 

The officer, who is black and filed the suit as ‘John Doe,’ was once named the Memphis police’s ‘Officer of the Year,’ before being offered the new position with Nashville in 2020 under then-police chief Steve Anderson.

Allison Brussell, an attorney for the Nashville Metropolitan Department of Law, issued a statement in response saying they declined to comment on the litigation.

Anderson, the police chief at the time of the decision, has since resigned. 

A decorated Memphis police officer is suing the Nashville Police Department after he claims they rescinded a job offer when they discovered his status as HIV positive and calling him a danger to the public

A decorated Memphis police officer is suing the Nashville Police Department after he claims they rescinded a job offer when they discovered his status as HIV positive and calling him a danger to the public

The federal lawsuit filed Friday detailed the cop’s background as having caught a killer and having consistently taken on the city of Memphis’ toughest assignments.

The officer discovered he had HIV in 2015, years after he started working for the Memphis Police Department, where he’d ‘received multiple awards for heroism.’ 

‘By any measure, [Doe] has been a model officer and a credit to each police department and community he has served,’ the suit stated, which also noted he’d been promoted to crisis intervention work and been given a raise. 

Doe’s wife took a job in Nashville, three hours east of Memphis and Doe sought to get a transfer and applied for a job so he wouldn’t have to make the long commute to his wife and daughter, according to the filing.

The officer got his offer from the Nashville police on February 25, 2020, pending a medical exam. 

A doctor for the department took a blood sample without saying why, the lawsuit argued and informed the cop of his HIV positive status – which Doe already long knew.

The officer argued he’d been labeled undetectable – in that the disease doesn’t show up viral load tests but appear on antibody tests and he can’t transmit the virus – for over five years. 

He received a rejection letter the next month from Nashville police, which has for years complained of being heavily understaffed,  even in the wake of a deadly shooting at a school earlier this year.   

‘The Civil Service Medical Officer’s report states you are not recommended to attend the Police Academy,’ the rejection letter stated. 

‘All applications for the position of Police Officer Trainee must meet or exceed the medical standards set forth in the United States Army Induction Standards, 40-501.’

The officer, who is black and filed the suit as 'John Doe,' was once named the Memphis police's 'Officer of the Year' before being offered the new position with Nashville police in 2020 under then-police chief Steve Anderson (pictured)

The officer, who is black and filed the suit as ‘John Doe,’ was once named the Memphis police’s ‘Officer of the Year’ before being offered the new position with Nashville police in 2020 under then-police chief Steve Anderson (pictured)

The federal lawsuit filed on Friday details the cop's background as having caught a killer and having consistently taken on the city of Memphis' toughest assignments

The federal lawsuit filed on Friday details the cop’s background as having caught a killer and having consistently taken on the city of Memphis’ toughest assignments

Nashville police use the same standards as the United States Army on medical examinations. 

The suit claimed Nashville police ‘unabashedly indicated’ that his HIV-positive status meant that they would not employ him regardless. 

It argues that John Doe ‘posed no significant risk to others and was otherwise qualified for the job for which he had applied’ and was therefore discriminated against and violates federal law.

‘Policies that categorically deny people jobs because of HIV status are just so out of date with science,’ said Jose Abrigo, who runs the HIV Project for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and represents the officer.

‘In this case, our client has been undetectable,’ he told The Daily Beast

‘He is HIV positive, [but] he’s perfectly healthy. It’s the old HIV stigma, operating under this concept… [that] if you’re standing next to someone with HIV, you could potentially catch it.’

Doe has both had appeals and medical waivers rejected by the department.

Abrigo said the lawsuit is being filed federally because the military code cited by Nashville police has since been overturned. 

‘Lambda also challenged the military code, so that now, as of April 2022, folks living with HIV can enlist in the military,’ he said. ‘So, that doesn’t hold up anymore.’ 

The officer has instead taken a position with the Tennessee Highway Patrol but the suit claims he has faced ’emotional pain and suffering, stress, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, inconvenience, and other monetary and dignitary harms.’ 

The lawsuit asks for a court order to prevent Nashville police from refusing to employ people with HIV. It also asks to award the officer’s lost wages, bonuses and benefits – along with an unspecified amount of money in damages.  

Abrigo slammed the policies preventing people with HIV from serving, calling them outdated.

‘Everyone has the right to be able to support their families and get a job, no matter their disability status,’ he said. ‘… Unfortunately, stuff like this still exists throughout the country. But we’re challenging [these policies] one-by-one.’ 

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