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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My thoughts on the Sandra Bland Arrest and Mysterious Death

I am trying to look at this thing from different perspectives. I think that both the police officer was wrong and Sandra Bland was partially wrong in this situation. But, the blames lies more so with the arresting officer, Brian Encinia.  

I watched the dash cam video, a number of times. Of course, officer Encinia was within his rights to pull Sandra Bland over in the first place because she did break a traffic law by failing to use a signal when making the lane change. Up until the point where Ms. Bland was asked to put out the cigarette, that’s where things began to spiral out of control.  A lot of people are saying that her “Black woman’s attitude” was the problem.   Yet, people aren’t thoroughly examining what the police officer did wrong.   His actions resulted in possible false arrest and violation of her constitutional rights. There is no law that says that people must be polite and completely deferential to police officers.   

And, why was she even asked to step out of her vehicle after she was reluctant to put out the cigarette?  It leads me to think that officer Encinia was upset that she didn’t put the cigarette out after he nicely asked her to.  It seems that the situation got out of control because of the officer’s inability to deescalate and his bruised ego.

As far as her having an “attitude” goes; I have seen and heard much worse from other people who have been pulled over by the cops.  The first thing that some people do when they are in the presence of cops, is go completely H.A.M.  Give someone a little too much liquor (or drugs), call the cops and some of the drunk bastards threaten physical harm to cops, right in their faces. They curse and insult them for absolutely no reason. 

Sandra Bland’s “attitude” did not really come out until that police officer told her to get out of the car.  Up until that point she appeared to be agitated and annoyed but not what I would call turned-up.  And I feel that is where she went wrong because when he asked her to get out of the car she should have because that is allowed by the law. FYI, there is a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977 (Pennsylvania v. Mimms) which upheld the right and discretion of police officers to order a driver out of their vehicle during traffic stops when they feel that their safety is threatened.  

One of the legal issues that came up in that case is whether police officers have the right to order a driver out of their vehicle.  Was Sandra Bland’s Fourth Amendment rights violated?  It may come down to whether a court would decide that a reasonable person would believe that their safety were in jeopardy in this specific situation.

Now, as far as him asking her to put out the cigarette, there is no law that says she must put the cigarette out.  Therefore, legally she was not required to do so.  And, I know that there are some cops who will try and twist and misinterpret the laws in order to manufacture a reason to arrest you or search your possessions.  Some will turn failure to comply with a simple request into obstruction of justice (I know because it happened to me).  Personally, I feel that this officer was fishing for a reason to arrest her and it’s almost like she played into it.  And, yes, I think the officer did abuse his authority in this case.  He was overzealous and the way that he handled her physically was just atrocious and unnecessary.  He didn’t care about how rough he handled her, even after she told him that she suffered from epilepsy.

Anyways, if I were in that situation, I would have went on ahead and put the cigarette out.  My mama always told me that you have to “Ease your hand out of the lion’s out of the mouth”.  The thing is, it’s not very smart to fight and fuss, just for the sake of fighting and fussing.  And, that is especially when you are dealing with someone who has more power and authority. 

I have experienced a mix of positive encounters and negative encounters with law enforcement. So, I am not saying that all police officers are corrupt or bad apples.  But, we already know that many police officers are rude, have poor social skills, and use their gun and badge to bully people. Some of them are covert racists and sociopaths.   You are better off, especially as a Black person using your logic and reasoning vs. emotions during police stops.  Anytime emotions are injected into the mix, things can go left very quickly. It makes more sense to keep a cool head and comply with law enforcement orders (provided that your constitutional rights aren’t violated) to safely get yourself out of the situation. 

If you feel that your civil rights are being violated, then by all means fight and defend your rights in a non-violent way (if possible).  File formal written complaints with internal affairs and civil lawsuits later on if you feel that it’s warranted.

Then, you have to also consider your financial resources and your time.  Make sure that you pick your battles wisely.  You may win the battle but end up losing the war. Are you willing to put up with the inconvenience of being arrested, charged with a crime and having your car impounded? What’s going to happen with your work situation if you spend a few days behind bars? Do you have money to post bail and pay legal fees? Those are some things to think about when you encounter police.

Either way, the police were responsible for Sandra Bland’s death.  I doubt that she was murdered but there is still the possibility that foul play was involved. There are some unanswered questions that make me feel very suspicious of the whole thing.  I think it is more likely that she did kill herself. One of the questions that cause concerns for me, is why did police department employees leave the woman alone in a cell if it were known that she attempted suicide before? She should have been supervised and put in a mental ward if this were the case.  So, they are definitely negligent in this regard.

Officer Encinia is on administrative leave for not following police department procedures and proper protocol in that situation.  I hope that Sandra Bland’s family sues the police department and wins.

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