Saturday, July 25, 2015

Learning from Sandra Bland: First thoughts

Grits readers are so familiar with the masthead that most of you have probably stopped reading it: "You might beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride." The death of Sandra Bland shows that old canard remains among the most serious problems in our Texas justice system. The protections guarding anyone from being pulled out of their car for no reason, taken downtown and booked into jail (for no demonstrated reason), and then quite possibly dying there, have eroded to the vanishing point. Sandra Bland, like most Texans, didn't actually know that and received the harshest possible lesson when she tried to articulate what she thought were her rights.

The Texas House County Affair Committee will hold a hearing next week to study "jail standards, procedures with regards to potentially mentally ill persons in county jails, as well as issues stemming from interactions between the general public and peace officers." That sounds to me like the first state-level public hearing on the policy issues surrounding the Bland case and it's worth considering what policy responses might look like look like beyond placard-sized slogans.

Sandra Bland's death highlights at least three major policy changes needed to keep the public safe from its protectors.
  • The officer should not have had grounds to arrest her in the first place. 
  • Even if arrested, she should have been booked and released, not jailed.
  • Once in jail, she should have been more closely monitored (assuming her death was, in fact, a suicide.)
On the traffic stop: Yes the officer was rude, needlessly aggressive and threatening. But that was probably punishable misconduct (DPS immediately reported his reassignment to desk duty awaiting discipline). Less discussed but more important from a public policy perspective is the issue Bud Kennedy raised in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: It's bullshit that a cop has the right to arrest somebody over a traffic violation. Kennedy explained the authority under which the trooper believed he had the right to drag Bland out of her car for failure-to-signal-lane change:
By a 5-4 vote in 2001, the Supreme Court upheld the arrest of Gail Atwater, 45, stopped by Lago Vista police driving slowly along the roadside helping children look for a lost stick-on ornament from the Austin Ice Bats hockey team.

Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion that any arrest involving a violation is not “unreasonable” search or seizure.

University of Texas Law School professor Michael F. Sturley was another of Atwater’s lawyers.
“Here was a mother and her kids looking for a toy, and she got thrown in jail,” Sturley said.

“Police experts say the last thing you want is to arrest someone over a traffic stop. It’s expensive to jail people, takes officers away from duty and imposes a lot of costs on the system. But police say it’s a tool when they want to throw someone in jail.”

In Texas, police don’t need a good reason. Just a reason.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/bud-kennedy/article28476181.html#storylink=cpy
Long-time Grits readers may recall that the Legislature passed a law in response to that Supreme Court case disallowing arrests for most Class C misdemeanors, but the bill was among Rick Perry's first round of vetoes in 2001. In 2003, Perry vetoed another bill which would have required law enforcement agencies to have written policies stating when their officers could arrest for Class C misdemeanors, and the Legislature has not seriously addressed the issues since.

With a new governor and momentum from this episode (the trooper was a complete jerk, making the video viral gold), perhaps it's time to revisit the Legislature's 2001 rebuff of the Atwater decision. Your correspondent has long considered that one of Rick Perry's most egregious and harmful vetoes.

On arrival at the jail: Once dragged out of her car and taken down town, she could have been charged, booked and released. Remember, this all started with a traffic violation. Grits for years has harped on egregious, needless levels of pretrial incarceration at Texas' county jails -- currently 60.7% of statewide jail populations are incarcerated pretrial.

Consider that percentage that for a moment in light of Sandra Bland's death. Like Bland, more than half of the people in jail haven't been convicted of anything. Grits has spent considerable blog space over the years promoting alternatives to big, expensive new local debt issues for jail expansion. The simplest: you don't actually have to jail most people pre-trial.

While lots remains unknown about Sandra Bland's death, she would probably be alive today if she had been booked and released on a personal bond with a date to return to court for her hearing.

On detention: the last policy issue bound to get more attention - particularly if the murder allegations fail to stand up - is suicide prevention in jails. The Texas Tribune reported that suicides are by far the most common cause of unnatural deaths in jails and most of those are hangings. (See additional Trib coverage of regulatory and mental health issues arising from the case.)

Last year in Texas there were 615 in-custody deaths; 410 were in TDCJ (excluding 10 executions) and the rest were police shootings or deaths in jails. (Here's the AG's running list.) Suicides are the most common source of jail deaths besides natural causes. As I've written before, while advocates worldwide focus on Texas' death penalty, few advocates or media similarly prioritize confronting this far more common way to die behind bars:
These deaths were never scheduled, thus never delayed, and for the most part no newspaper reporter ever told their stories. But they remain just as dead as the men and women killed in the execution chamber, their families grieve as ardently. Dead is dead, even if humans seem to suffer from a desire to make some deaths matter more than others. It's all the same to the deceased.
Sometimes Texas jails have struggled with this problem, sometimes they've ignored it. But now the issue has moved to the front burner. The Bland case raises the question: What obligations are incurred by a jail when they learn through the intake process that an inmate has an acknowledged history of suicidal thoughts? The Commission on Jail Standards issued Waller County a red card over inadequate monitoring:
The jail was also cited for failure to personally observe an inmate at least once an hour, according to the Commission's executive director, Brandon Wood. The jail was previously cited for violating the 60-minute observation standard in 2012, after an inmate hanged himself with a bed sheet.
So this happened before, they were cited, but they didn't fix the problem. Even so, it's unclear that even checking in once every 60 minutes would have prevented what happened. Should there be requirements for video monitoring for inmates at risk of suicide? That would require more money for equipment and staffing, but nobody ever said it should be cheap and easy to take away someone's liberty.

Those are just a few examples of policy issues arising from the Bland case and I bet the County Affairs hearing next Thursday will identify more.

Sandra Bland's friends and family are raising a ruckus because she was a special person. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding her unjust detention and preventable death weren't special at all. One can can learn much from what's unique about this young woman's case, but perhaps even more from what it has in common with dozens or hundreds of others. Viewing the episode analytically can be difficult amidst the natural reactions of anger, shock, and grief, not to mention understandable defensiveness on the part of authorities. But it's necessary and implicitly those broader lessons are why her death matters to every Texan, in addition to the people who knew and loved her.

35 comments:

sunray's wench said...

I'm glad to see your considered opinions on this Scott. I do have one question though:

If the policeman had a dashcam, which I assume would have caught the traffic violation in action along with the numberplate of the vehicle, why was there a need to stop the vehicle at all? Why could there not have been a ticket issued later when he returned to the station, and mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle?

Chris H said...

The bill that Governor Perry vetoed would have continued to allow for the arrest of someone who did not have sufficient ties to the arresting jurisdiction. I think that Sandra Bland would have fallen under this exception.

The difference though, would be that LEO would lack the assumption that "Contempt of Cop" was an arrestable offense. That altered mindset might have prevented her arrest.

Anonymous said...

sunray's wench has a brilliant, cost effective solution to a huge problem.

I read Sandra Bland was the only woman in Waller County jail that weekend. Is this a common occurrence there?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that texas dps are rude and arrogant and do not care.dps is always taken care by the govenor, ever notice that they always get better raises than any other state employees. Finally, they are even trained to put the job before family.

dfisher said...

This Last Thursday I received a copy of Sandra Bland's In-Custody Death Report filed by the Waller County Sheriff on July 17, 2015. In pertinent the report states:

"There were no other inmates in the cell at the time that subject Bland was placed in cell 95. Subject bland was checked on every hour while in custody and was feed three times a day along with the other inmates."

We all know this was untrue the day Ms. Bland died, was untrue when the Waller CO Jail was decertified 2 weeks ago and was untrue when the report was filed with the TX Attorney General.

Should anyone believe anything Sheriff Smith says now and forever?

Unknown said...

Thanks for your thoughts, and I agree that she should be been released on a personal recognizance bond, but I think this is also the time to bring up the subject of your previous posts concerning the reforming of the bail bonding industry in these United States.

gravyrug said...

"Subject bland was checked on every hour while in custody"

And yet I've read elsewhere that the jail hallway camera recorded no activity in the hall in front of her cell for 90 minutes before her body was found. I don't know if that extra half hour would've made a difference, but it does make clear that "every hour" is a lie. There is just so very much about this case that is wrong, it's hard to figure out where to start unpacking it all. Good job making a start on it, Grits. Let's hope the spotlight forces some actual changes.

BexarKat said...

I'm not sure which is the most vile and corrupted information presented; the blog article or the comments. The officer initially was not rude nor aggressive and was not going to cite her, but give her a warning. If someone has a beef with a cop because of the way they were treated by the cop, first of all, obey the commands and raise the issue later with his or her supervisor or if the agency is large enough, internal affairs. Any escalation of the incident was made by Sandra Bland. The trooper alleged he was kicked (and since it was off-camera no one can validate it...BUT, if she did, assuredly there were photos taken of his wounds. Sorry catch and release here, it's a felony to assault a cop - she was rightly and lawfully booked in jail.
A witness, another female inmate was in the cell next to Bland's and reportedly heard no commotion. Cells today do not have bars.
There were some reported compliance issues at the jail. If Bland had not died, those issued would have been handled administratively through an administrative law hearing at the Texas Jail Commission or the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement which is responsible for county jailers' training and training compliance.
Bland was reportedly suicidal and had self-inflicted wounds similar to wounds made by someone deeply depressed. Bland had access to a telephone...so why weren't arrangements made with family or friends to bail her out of jail? Bland was supposed to start a new job and a new life in Texas. It's likely that during Day 3 she realized the job would not be available for her since she was charged with a felony.

Anonymous said...

"Any escalation of the incident was made by Sandra Bland"

Right, she MADE the trooper arrest her for failure to signal a lane change. He had no choice but to stick his head in her car and drag her out, right? Understandable, after she'd backed him into a corner like that ...

George said...

@BexarKat,

I disagree with your comment, "I'm not sure which is the most vile and corrupted information presented; the blog article of the comments." Seems to me that you are either a LEO or an apologist. While I know without a doubt that there are many great cops in service today, I also know equally without a doubt that there are many egotistical "psychos" wearing a badge. There's no doubt that if they took a psychopathy test they would score high. Perhaps that should be part of the initial testing done before any actual training begins.

You are part of the problem here. You apologize and make excuses for your "brethren" who hide behind a badge. Again, let me say again that not all cops exhibit behavior such as this. What I am saying that certain personality types gravitate towards careers such as these because of the "power rush" it gives them, all signs of a sociopathic/psychopathic personality.

Not all cops are heroes people. There are some really sick bastards wearing badges and carrying guns. Couple that with the practice of "protecting their own" even when they themselves violate the law and citizens constitutional rights, --- well, we end up with what is going on throughout the country.

Cops have tough jobs, no doubt about it. However, nobody twisted their arms to apply for the job and receive a hefty salary to boot. Certain things come with the territory and if you don't have the skills to do your job as a law enforcement officer with a high level of efficacy, then you should look elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Having a high level of marijuana in her system didn't help her mental state. Some jails have "when/what was the last drug you used?" forms. And I'd imagine that if the Waller County Jail had those forms that she likely would have lied.

Why didn't her family know she had depression and drug habits and they have known her for years? Was she being treated before the incident? LEOs and county jails are not mental health experts. They can try, but need some cooperation and or more obvious signs. Close the book and move on as SHE killed HERSELF. Sad -yes, but not a news story.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Close the book"?!

Good luck spreading that message, Officer Barbrady.

SEMPERFINE said...

Actually Scott, it was more of an issue of "Respect my Authoritay", if we are using South Park references.

Anonymous said...

sunray's wench, your solution wouldn't work as demonstrated by the local Red Light Camera repeal. Their biggest argument was that the cameras that caught the license plate did not catch the driver and the masses spoke loudly enough that they wanted old fashioned law. It was a big enough win that some goober living outside the city rented an apartment to win a seat on city council.

Otherwise, as Bland was accused of assaulting a state trooper, there was no way in heck she was going to qualify for a catch and release program. The back up officer, a young black woman herself IIRC, apparently observed the assaulting kick too, one of the media stories mentioning it. But the need for a mere $500 to bond out on a felony charge seems low enough that most people could come up with it, Bland having local friends and her family could have wired it to them or a bonding company, yes? I figure that given her lengthy criminal history and already owing nearly $8000 for previous court fines slowed down her family's response.

But couldn't Texas simply make all or most traffic violations civil offenses? She did not seem to know she was just going to get a warning, a fact the trooper should have mentioned before allowing it to escalate, but had she been aware of that, do any of us think she would have pushed his buttons so hard?

Further, if Texas had legalized marijuana, the likelihood that she would have felt the need to get loud to the trooper would have diminished, the most recent narrative based on the autopsy being that she felt the need to eat her stash or face new drug charges. If that was what she was trying to cover up with her cigarette smoke and/or behavior, legalization might have defeated the need.

On the detention issue, the county staff spoke to her within the last hour of her life by the phone in the cell and for some portion of her stay, her neighboring cell had another female in it. I doubt that is best possible practices but few expect that to change no matter what the outcome. As Scott mentioned, people don't want to spend the money up front for stuff like that. If a civil suit is filed in Waller County, I suspect that barring an all too low settlement, the outcome is not nearly as certain as some might believe. The combination of released factors on the deceased and the family's repeated insistence that Bland would never commit suicide, how happy she was, and all the rest will come back to haunt them.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. If you're stopped, don't escalate the situation with an attitude. In the field is not the time to complain. There are other avenues where such complaints can be pursued where you are more protected.

Anonymous said...

Having worked in law enforcement before, it truly disturbs me that other law enforcement officers attempt to defend the moron in this case. Yes, Ms. Bland's behavior was wrong - but, so was his. And, he was supposedly trained to act in a professional manner in dealing with stressful or difficult situations. Apparently his training didn't take. Now, you have morons who also happen to carry badges who come on here and defend him. Why can't they just admit one of their own wasn't up to the task. It is probably because they suffer from the same fragile type of ego and can't maintain their composure when someone says something they don't like.

I'm not trying to defend Ms. Bland. Her conduct was out of line. But, any one of us or our family members could have a bad day and may not have the best attitude at any particular encounter. If you've ever worked in retail or any other occupation where you have to deal directly with the public you know that sometimes people are dealing with difficult things and take it out on someone who may just be doing their job. A police officer knows they are going to encounter those people from time to time. A bad day and a bad attitude should not result in an arrest. Next time it could be you, your son, your daughter, your spouse, etc.

To the moronic LEO that placed all the blame for the escalation on Ms. Bland here. You need to be retrained. When confronted with verbal hostility, a police officer should maintain his cool and calmly continue to listen to and talk with the person. WHen you match the hostile tone, as this officer did, you escalate the situation. The officer here clearly and undeniably escalated this situation. If you don't see that, please do the citizens a favor and turn in your badge today. While you continue to possess a badge you are a danger to yourself and others. Seriously, at least seek out some training as you obviously missed something along the way. If you don't recognize the issues with this officer and you continue to deal with the public as a LEO, you will probably end up getting yourself or someone else killed.

Anonymous said...

When the DPS Trooper sarcastically quips,"Are you done?", the stop is already decompensating into an unprofessional confrontation leading to the cigarette remark, then get out of the car for arrest. He baited then provoked Bland, and in her anger, she fell for it. Is that quality police work product or goading? Many believe the motorist is the only party burdened to deescalate. I think not, we should demand a lot more from our trained, certified, and very high salaried public safety servants. Would Bland of kicked the Trooper if he would of handed her the warning with the explanation? My $50 bucks says no. Everyone lives on and still has their job. Compare that to the actual results.

I still hope something positive comes from this oppressive stop when it comes to how public servants treat the public. DPS Director McCraw has a chance to make public, a procedure everyone can live with, but I doubt he will even bend down to pick up the ball, much less run with it. In general, when it comes to any level of quality in government, set your expectations low, that way you will not feel disappointed in the result.

Gov/ern/ment A public entity in charge of everything but responsible for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7/26/2015 12:46:00 PM,
Having worked in the field what seems a lifetime ago myself, I have several concerns, not least of which was the conduct of the trooper. Reports are that he was new to the force which might partially explain his stance, DPS so understaffed that they almost certainly cut corners given some of the foolish programs many troopers are wasted on at the border. As a paid representative of the people, the trooper went overboard and will now deal with the consequences.

I disagree with you on one point though. I've seen some claim to be LEOs defending his actions but as they continue to stand up for the guy, they come across as wannabe supporters rather than the real deal. Encinia worked at Blue Bell and was a fireman for the years prior to joining DPS a year ago, had a four year degree from a good school, and was far from the good old boy of old that DPS used to hire so he wasn't a moron, he just lacked the temperament needed to work in the field. All the training in the world won't or can't fix that. He should have been screened out but again, DPS has lost so much manpower over all those years when they were the low cost leader in pay that as they play catch up with that giant raise they received last year and have to staff the border program, they see a college boy as a catch. Those who have worked in the field know of plenty with college or military experience that drift into the field, usually leaving for greener pastures on their own after a few years.

Anonymous said...

Today, more than ever, police officers need to be making efforts to build positive relationships with the public. This lady was from a northern city, probably an area where there is a lot of mistrust and anger towards law enforcement, at least from certain segments of the community. In recent years we have seen this mistrust and anger towards law enforcement spread rapidly. I don't put all the blame for that on police officers, there are a lot of factors. However, the actions of many officers have exacerbated the problem.

In this case you had a lady who came from a location and culture that probably said that police officers are going to act in an oppressive and unfair manner because she was black. I don't think this stop had anything to do with race, however, I do believe the out of state license plate may have been a factor. This lady also probably believed that she was traveling through an area where most law enforcement was racist and she probably had some fear that the type of thing that happened to her would happen. In a way, this was probably sort of a self-fulfiling prophecy on her part.

I wonder how many officers who are now defending this officer realize what a missed opportunity this truly was. Had this offer remained calm and engaged this lady in a meaningful conversation about her mistrust and anger towards law enforcement, the stop could have ended much differently. Perhaps this lady could have calmed down and realized that the officer was doing his job and that there was no racist intent. Perhaps she would have driven away with warning ticket in hand and feeling bad about initially being rude to the officer. Heck, I've seen situations where people who were initially hostile towards an officer apologized and thanked the officer after they calmed down. There is absolutely no reason this stop could not have ended that way. And, as the lady was driving away she could have been thinking that while law enforcement in the place where she comes from may not be trustworthy, these police officers in Texas are all right. Perhaps, she may have even ended up thinking that she needed to reassess her opinions about the officers where she comes from.

This was a huge missed opportunity to change someone's attitude about law enforcement for the better. A change in one person's perspective may not seem like much but that's how it starts. Instead, the video of this stop will serve to increase anger and mistrust towards law enforcement everywhere. One officer and one traffic stop can have a profound impact. It is just really sad that the impact here is going to be negative for law enforcement in general. So, instead of defending the officer, it seems to me that other officers should be angry with this guy. He just made your jobs harder and missed a good opportunity to make things better.

albeed said...

01:59:00 PM

Best Comment I have read in awhile:

Anonymous said...

Anon 7/26/2015 01:59:00 PM,
this is Anon 7/26/2015 01:46:00 PM again. I fully agree because I was that type of officer once I settled down a bit decades ago. I'd get razzed by some of the other officers for being too nice but in almost every case, even if I didn't make all of them a life long LEO supporter, they often commented how polite and courteous I was. I had as many citizen commendations from people I arrested or wrote tickets to as some of the community service guys that always get to be the nice guy in nonthreatening civic meetings. It led to my placement in specialized areas as well as committees before I retired some time ago.

Some complain about the militarization of police though those rare pieces of extremely obsolete some departments used to get until Obama stopped the program were destined for the scrap yard, no military use found for them. In a department of 4000+ officers, maybe 3 were given access to any of that stuff and most of it was rarely used because the cost of keeping it running was too high. The use of shields and helmets by a few select squads has been suggested as such but those have been in use for over 50 years in big departments, nothing new at all.

Others complain how SCOTUS and courts have chipped away at rights and greatly empowered police in all sorts of ways too but as someone in the field for many years, often in high crime areas, it never felt like that to me or my peers. All of us were continuously scrutinized, be it for how productive we were, how clean & shiny we looked, or for how many outside jobs we had to work to make ends meet making mid $20k salaries without a lot of overtime. In the Houston/Harris county area, every officer I've met worked multiple jobs like this, including command staff members and captains, yet I heard both the city and county cut pensions only to see the pool of applicants dry up, at least many of the good ones that headed for greener pastures.

As a retiree from a modest paying department myself, I know I'd be willing to pay more for better coverage by better trained and educated officers but my neighbors often disagree, the same neighbors that think Wal-Mart wages should be fine for everyone but their family. Make no mistake, better policing requires more effort up front but also support from those at the top, none of which I see despite the lip service they pay during photo opportunities. Collectively, situations like the Bland stop are rare enough that most people will blame the suspect, it not hurting them in the opinion of the masses when the details show what has already come out about her. In order for positive change to occur, a lot more people than self appointed activists with a chip on their shoulder are going to have to agree the changes are needed. As such changes are going to cost an awful lot of money, those in power do not seem predisposed to concur as they chase imaginary boogymen on the border or wring hands over military exercises.

And just so you know, most officers I've spoken with about Bland have expressed their feelings about the Bland stop in ways I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about, even those who believe each step of the stop was legal, just not necessarily wise.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7/26/2015 01:59:00 PM,
this is Anon 7/26/2015 01:46:00 PM again. I fully agree because I was that type of officer once I settled down a bit decades ago. I'd get razzed by some of the other officers for being too nice but in almost every case, even if I didn't make all of them a life long LEO supporter, they often commented how polite and courteous I was. I had as many citizen commendations from people I arrested or wrote tickets to as some of the community service guys that always get to be the nice guy in nonthreatening civic meetings. It led to my placement in specialized areas as well as committees before I retired some time ago.

Some complain about the militarization of police though those rare pieces of extremely obsolete some departments used to get until Obama stopped the program were destined for the scrap yard, no military use found for them. In a department of 4000+ officers, maybe 3 were given access to any of that stuff and most of it was rarely used because the cost of keeping it running was too high. The use of shields and helmets by a few select squads has been suggested as such but those have been in use for over 50 years in big departments, nothing new at all.

Others complain how SCOTUS and courts have chipped away at rights and greatly empowered police in all sorts of ways too but as someone in the field for many years, often in high crime areas, it never felt like that to me or my peers. All of us were continuously scrutinized, be it for how productive we were, how clean & shiny we looked, or for how many outside jobs we had to work to make ends meet making mid $20k salaries without a lot of overtime. In the Houston/Harris county area, every officer I've met worked multiple jobs like this, including command staff members and captains, yet I heard both the city and county cut pensions only to see the pool of applicants dry up, at least many of the good ones that headed for greener pastures.

As a retiree from a modest paying department myself, I know I'd be willing to pay more for better coverage by better trained and educated officers but my neighbors often disagree, the same neighbors that think Wal-Mart wages should be fine for everyone but their family. Make no mistake, better policing requires more effort up front but also support from those at the top, none of which I see despite the lip service they pay during photo opportunities. Collectively, situations like the Bland stop are rare enough that most people will blame the suspect, it not hurting them in the opinion of the masses when the details show what has already come out about her. In order for positive change to occur, a lot more people than self appointed activists with a chip on their shoulder are going to have to agree the changes are needed. As such changes are going to cost an awful lot of money, those in power do not seem predisposed to concur as they chase imaginary boogymen on the border or wring hands over military exercises.

And just so you know, most officers I've spoken with about Bland have expressed their feelings about the Bland stop in ways I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about, even those who believe each step of the stop was legal, just not necessarily wise.

Anonymous said...

I believe if that policeman had acted professional, this out come would have been better for everyone. I have traveled on roads alone in Texas, and i as a lady am afraid of what she faced, and probably would have reacted the same way. Would i be wrong feeling this way, i think not. I read almost every week that someone was stopped driving in Texas and some other states, where the person stopped was killed!!!!! I have a lot of relatives that live in Texas and when i go there, i rent a car and drive on the highways, this could have happened to me!!!! Laws need to change all over this country so this do not happen again!!!!! To tell the truth, i have been stopped a couple of times for speeding in Texas. I was given a ticket and the policeman{so far} have been plesant!!! Thank the Lord. But we never know. I pray that Texas get their act together and do what is nessessary to stop such as this!!!

Anonymous said...

Well at least they didn't shoot this one from the helicopter. They're cracking down on federal administrative violations and low level traffic misdemeanors obviously. For some of the young Troopers out there let this be a lesson to you. You can be that hard charger your sarge always talks about and have a very short future, or you can be a human being with an eye toward justice and humility while enjoying a long successful career. The former will be resolved after receiving that miracle ass-kicking, which will change your outlook on how you handle people in your job. The latter will be a respected member of the community that can be counted on to be just and fair. Either you'll get wise one way or the other. You can learn it or let it get beat into you by someone (crook, your chain of command, or even your family) the hard way.
This young Troopern involved in this case is about to take one hell of a beating. Unlikely he'll survive this unscathed, but he might. Guarantee you he's going to be a different professional going forward. But the department is real good about canning anyone that makes the agency look that bad. This with at-will employment and no worthy state police union for support. He's as good as gone. Just the formalities remain.

Anonymous said...

I keep thinking about that moment when the officer first told Bland she was under arrest. She is still in her car. The only charge so far is a lane change violation. Huffington Post has posted the transcript of the entire incident and here's that bit:

Bland: I'm in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?
Encinia: Well you can step on out now.
Bland: I don’t have to step out of my car.
Encinia: Step out of the car.
Bland: Why am I ...
Encinia: Step out of the car!
Bland: No, you don’t have the right. No, you don't have the right.
Encinia: Step out of the car.
Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this.
Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you.
Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal?
Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order.
Get out of the car now or I’m going to remove you.
Bland: And I’m calling my lawyer.
Encinia: I’m going to yank you out of here. (Reaches inside the car.)
Bland: OK, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK, alright.
Encinia (calling in backup): 2547.
Bland: Let’s do this.
Encinia: Yeah, we’re going to. (Grabs for Bland.)
Bland: Don’t touch me!
Encinia: Get out of the car!
Bland: Don’t touch me. Don't touch me! I’m not under arrest -- you don't have the right to take me out of the car.
Encinia: You are under arrest!
Bland: I’m under arrest? For what? For what? For what?
Encinia (to dispatch): 2547 county fm 1098 (inaudible) send me another unit. (To Bland) Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!
Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You're trying to give me a ticket for failure ...
Encinia: I said get out of the car!
Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my --
Encinia: I‘m giving you a lawful order. I’m going to drag you out of here.
Bland: So you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car?
Encinia: Get out of the car!
Bland: And then you’re going to [crosstalk] me?
Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now! (Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.)

I would be totally outraged too (and frankly terrified) if an officer was arresting me at taser point for a lane change violation. I'm imagining those "scales of justice" and on one side is the lane change violation (maybe, what, a tiny feather in the world of wrong doing) and on the other is an arrest at taser point (mmm, what, maybe a baseball bat on that little weight tray.)

Grits says this is something legislators actually tried to fix once. There was a bill, it got vetoed. Maybe it wasn't the strongest bill. Let's make it stronger. Who cares if you don't have ties to the jurisdiction (@Chris H). A feather sized infraction should be met with a feather sized response. There will always be officers who are not up to the job, just like there will always be people who can't make it in nursing or retail or waiting tables. That's why the rights we think we have when we get stopped should be much closer to the rights we actually have.

Anonymous said...

I really hope something is changed about the law that gives the police the right to arrest someone for a traffic violation. I'm surprised this story isn't happening all day everyday given the personality types generally found in law enforcement, and the law giving these officers a green light to arrest at will, or whenever THEY deem it necessary. Give me a break! That's just begging for trouble. In my opinion there are some good police officers no doubt about it, but there are many more. self absorbed, power tripped ass holes, looking to fuck someone's day up.

pp petry said...

So where did this other inmate come from? Initially the report was that she was the only inmate, then all of a sudden there is another inmate??? I guess money talks.

pp petry said...

So where did this other inmate come from? Initially the report was that she was the only inmate, then all of a sudden there is another inmate??? I guess money talks.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7/28/2015 10:40:00 PM, it seems that your belief in "the personality types generally found in law enforcement" is disproven daily to the tune of many thousands of tickets written without an arrest. Most times, arrests are made when the driver has warrants or no identification so the cop doesn't know who it is. This approach of piling on ever increasing obstacles for rare exceptions in those who abuse discretion has proven to fail all too often.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"This approach of piling on ever increasing obstacles for rare exceptions in those who abuse discretion has proven to fail all too often"

So has leaving the matter to police disciplinary procedures, hence the piling on.

The Comedian said...

Every time one of these incidents occurs, my dislike and distrust of LEOs increases. I didn't use to feel this way but my blood boils more and more with each incident. I am a white male professional in my mid-60s, never been arrested and never had a negative confrontation with a LEO. I've had my share of traffic stops, all done professionally by the officer, over the years. I realize of course that I have the advantage of white privilege.

My advice to LE: Stop covering each other’s asses and do your f**king job! Grow a pair and turn in that buddy who's trafficking drugs, raping women and children, stealing, thieving and abusing his/her authority. Or is that not possible because he/she has too much dirt on you? Inquiring minds want to know!

Peter.Marana said...

This is a great and thoughtful article. How many times a day do police officers, let alone the "gold standard" of Texas law enforcement, behave this way. This tragedy hits the news because of the suicide but most (99%) abuse goes unreported.

We, unfortunately, now live in a police state in Texas and count yourself lucky that you do not have to deal with the police. When the ex-governor vetoes bills that would rein in over-the-top policing so he can appear tough on crime - well we get what we voted for.

Donald Campbell said...

I also have to wonder what the Trooper that made the arrest thinks now?

Wonder if he'll brag about this to his children and grandchildren?

The lady is now dead for "contempt of cop" after a lane change violation. Yes, she should have been civil but the officer was sworn to be civil and the lady was not.

So, I'll pray for the Trooper because his playing the asshole on this occasion had unexpected and most terrible consequences.
The man is probably a decent man and good cop but he really screwed up.

And, the outcome would have been far different if he had gotten her released at the station after she kicked him and he roughed her up -- think she got the worst of that exchange. But doingthis would have required the Trooper to admit that they both were wrong so that he should have mercy and perhaps regret his own actions...

Anonymous said...

Comedian: "My advice to LE: Stop covering each other’s asses and do your f**king job! Grow a pair and turn in that buddy who's trafficking drugs, raping women and children, stealing, thieving and abusing his/her authority. Or is that not possible because he/she has too much dirt on you? Inquiring minds want to know!"

Every officer I know, and I suspect I know a great many more than you do, would turn in any officer dealing drugs, raping, stealing, etc. You may want to remember that perennial budget cuts means most officers ride alone these days and the rest of the force is not privy to the abuses you mention on those rare occasions a cop goes rogue. I suppose you hold every employee at Exxon responsible for every other employee, expect everyone working at IBM to have intimate knowledge of what their fellow employees are doing 24/7, and believe cops are omniscient too.

lovely destruction said...

She was the only one in her cell/dorm. Sandra was deliberately isolated from the other women, though one recounted talking to her through a vent or something, said she was sad and weepy.