A Manhattan judge has ordered the New York Police Department's medical board to rethink its "irrational" and "perplexing" decision to deny disability benefits to a police officer who says she contracted HIV on the job. State supreme court justice Rolando Acosta told the board to reconsider its findings in the case of a Nassau County resident and 12-year police veteran assigned to transit patrol who was diagnosed with HIV in May 1999. The judge said city law states that a police officer who contracts HIV is presumed to have done so in the performance of his or her duties "and not as a result of his or her willful negligence, unless the contrary can be proved by competent evidence."
"Petitioner established that she had been bitten and punched in both eyes while placing a (suspect) under arrest," the judge wrote, and "she was in constant contact with bodily fluids of perpetrators in the subways and streets of New York City." The judge said those facts about the 35-year-old officer, an unmarried mother of two who is still on the police payroll, "establish even more than is required" under the municipal law's "may have been exposed" language.
City lawyers said that while the medical board agreed the officer is HIV-positive, they suspect she contracted HIV from sexual activity. Assistant corporation counsel Carolyn Hafner claimed a statement from the officer's physician, reported in the minutes of the medical board on July 18, 2001, said the officer told him she had acquired HIV through sexual activity. City lawyers also stated they were surprised that the judge issued a decision. They said they were considering whether to move to vacate the decision and reargue or have the medical board rehear the case, as the judge directed. (AP)