Friday, July 31, 2015

Passionate first Lege hearing on Sandra Bland tragedy

Last night's Texas House County Affairs Committee hearing on the Sandra Bland episode sounds like it included some dramatic moments and received significant press coverage. (Grits was driving home from Lubbock and couldn't go.) Certainly, it appears DPS honcho Steve McCraw had a particularly rough go of it:
The NY Times article is particularly good, and the Breitbart piece highlights Tea Party "liberty" perspectives on the case. A video of the hearing isn't online yet but should be posted soon here.
 The missus attended the hearing and testified. She said the committee was in fine form, particularly praising Chairman Coleman, Jon Stickland, Joe Farias, and Gene Wu. Stickland, she said, was "on his best behavior" and well prepared, while Wu and Coleman demonstrated particular passion over pretrial detention issues.

The committee opened testimony to the public but the press coverage focused on comments by state officials. LBJ prof Michele Deitch testified, iterating some of her comments here. I'm told a couple of students from Prairie View A&M, who were friends of Ms. Bland, acquitted themselves especially admirably.

Had your correspondent been able to address the committee, my comments would have sounded something like this.


Robert Langham said...

Well, first go to Waller county and get pulled over for nothing, the stress will accelerate aging! Protest a bit and get locked in their jail indefinately as punishment, commit "suicide," and you will never age another day!

TriggerMortis said...

After reading the comment threads of dozens of articles about this case I have come to the conclusion that this country needs another Civil War.

Republicans don't seem to understand that being rude to cops is perfectly legal and not grounds to be attacked or even arrested.

I find it truly amazing that the party which tries to say it stands for law and order is chock-full of such incredibly stupid folks who don't realize what the party really stands for is Authoritarianism.

A couple of years ago the republicans were all in fear of President Obama using FEMA Camps as Concentration Camps. Of course any rational person knew this was ignorant just as they realize the Jade Helm 15 exercises present no threat. But stop and think for a minute about just how stupid republicans must be to believe this junk...

The Comedian said...

Incidents like Ms. Bland's illegal arrest and subsequent death are designed to keep the masses in line: "See what we did with her. The same could happen to you. Mind your Ps and Qs! Submit to authority! Be compliant! Don't question authorities! We can kill you anywhere anytime we please and our fellow officers will perjure themselves to back us up. Prosecutors will not charge us. Grand juries will not charge us. Juries will acquit us. Watch what you say! Watch what you do! You're either cop or you're little people - and little people get squashed like bugs if they don't behave. The next time you see a cop, be sure to smile and thank him for his service. He or she really doesn't want to have to shoot you for being disrespectful."

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about giving half-price for goods and services for which the average person isn't eligible. Especially at the restaurants!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the other commentators are kidding when they greatly exaggerate the circumstances of Bland's suicide, calling for more wars, or suggesting people don't have to follow the laws of the land. I'm willing to bet if it were voted on, most places in Texas would vote in favor of taking the trooper off desk duty to work their communities, the trooper never having killed anyone in his short career. Blaming Bland's mental illness on the trooper is just another way of suggesting people have no personal responsibility to deal with their illnesses.

Trigger then discredits himself by calling for "another civil war" as though it's okay for his views to prevail in a discussion but not those who think differently or are at odds with his reasoning. Bland committed suicide, something an educated person would eventually succeed at even if she had not been arrested. Teaching people to argue with an armed man on the side of the road is a foolish endeavor too, especially when the long game supports doing so once the event is over and they are safe.

Then the Comedian chimes in with the usual disproven rhetoric based on something other than state and federal law, the arrest legal even if some may not like it, the death by suicide outside the ability of anyone to control by the one committing the act, and the embellishment that paints with a mighty broad brush an entire profession based on the extreme acts of a few. Police have maybe 100 million or 200 million official contacts with people every year yet almost every death involving one of them shows the suspect was armed, committing a felony, or otherwise engaged in a behavior even a child would know is foolish. As a diver friend of mine used to say, "You don't negotiate the price of air at the bottom of a rig" (referring to there being a time and place for everything; if you feel you were wronged, take it up in court, with IA, or the elected officials).

Getting the discussion back on track, reforms in any government endeavor will never make everyone happy. Take steps to hire better qualified police, establish better ways to retain them and let them know what your expectations are, and follow through by changing laws you don't agree with. If you believe no force or threat of force is needed to gain compliance with a particular law, you are mistaken even if that force is rarely used. If you do not like that historical fact, by all means eliminate the laws you aren't willing to attach a consequence to. If you feel that a restaurant has no business setting their own prices and want to move to a different economic model, just say so but it will also require some degree of force... ;)

The Comedian said...

From KHOU 11 News 11:01 p.m., July 17, 2015: "The trooper who pulled over Sandra Bland on a traffic stop last Friday has been put on desk duty for violating procedures. The DPS said the unidentified trooper 'violated the department's procedures regarding traffic stops and the department's courtesy policy.'"

DPS records released under FOIA also revealed that this same trooper, Brian Encinia, "was given a written counseling for unprofessional conduct ... for an incident occurring while at a school in Austin."

The arrest was BS. She was arrested for assaulting a public servant, which allegedly occurred after she was physically pulled from her vehicle and conveniently took place after Encinia moved Bland out of dashcam range.

As a licensed Ph.D. psychologist who worked in TDCJ-ID for 12 years, still does contract work for TDCJ-ID, evaluates inmates in county jails, and parolees in halfway houses, I can tell you that an inmate/offender/detainee/parolee who gives indications of possible suicidality is closely watched and is not allowed any property or items with which he/she may harm/herself. Suicide is not "outside the ability of anyone to control". It is done every day in both free society and in lockup.

Anonymous said...

I don't know which is more disturbing, someone calling for a civil war or someone who thinks the actions of this officer were perfectly fine.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8/03/2015 11:48:00 PM, from your comments you are telling us you agree the officer was not as qualified as he should have been. The rest of the advice quite pragmatic.

@ Anon 8/03/2015 12:57:00 PM, I didn't see any of the above claiming the officer's actions were perfectly fine, one calling for improvements and some others dramatically overstating their takes before one chimed in with paper credentials as yet unverified. As such, I think the call for civil war wins that contest hands down.

Reforms I'd like to see:
Legalize drugs
Make traffic code civil violation except for DUI, commercial vehicles
Better bail procedures
Remove judges and DA's from party politics
Establish police review boards with full subpoena power
Apply Brady to both sides
Hire better police, pay them enough so they don't work on the side
Regular screening of police and judges
Remove all appointed defense in favor of dedicated office for defense

Anonymous said...

I'm getting confused now. Who are we alleging had a mental illness, Ms. Bland or the Trooper? The lines are very blurry in this situation.

Anonymous said...

All of this could have been avoided had this officer not been so bored with little to do. Apparently he crept up behind Sandra fast enough to appear like he was going past her. She was being courteous by moving over quickly. In essence, trooper Brian Encinia forced the violation. Such strong evidence that he has nothing better to do than to harass a driver. Getting an 'at a boy' from his superiors as well. Looks like it actually backfired on him this time. A young lady lost her life because the trooper has to justify there is so much crime [a lane change violation, off with her head I say] in Waller county and the state of Texas.

Anonymous said...

She killed herself. No amount of spin changes that fact. Encinia was tasked with enforcing laws like the one she broke. Others got warnings just like she would have if she didn't act so suspicious.

Kendricks said...

Anonymous 8/03/2015 07:36:00 PM,
it does appear she killed herself but to deny the officer played at least some role as the trigger for her mental illness is something to be discussed in a civil suit.

Anonymous 8/03/2015 07:30:00 PM,
has it been released how many hundreds or thousands of traffic stops the officer made in the past year? I'm willing to bet as a new trooper, he wrote many warnings or tickets as ordered by his supervisors.

Anonymous 8/03/2015 02:07:00 PM,
that's an impressive wishlist that I bet many would agree with but none of them will happen anytime soon in Texas.

Kelley Ryberg said...

The trooper was a dickbag and Grits doesn't have the cajones to say so in the callous way it needs to be said. Now that he's director of IPoT we can only expect he'll be sucking up to authoritarianism more than ever.

Scott, please hand this blog off to someone up to the task.

Anonymous said...

If DPS Director McCraw will not answer details on his troopers policy violations to the Texas House County Affairs Committee, who the hell does he report to then? If a citizen refuses to answer questions asked by a cop, the citizen is leveraged via handcuffs to jail. Sorry officer, I can't answer questions because of an ongoing investigation. How about I can't answer until all due process is finished. Sounds like a swell ship for the Colonel, but a hell ship for the "crew" (taxpayers). I guess the Texas House County Affairs Committee is just something to appease the press.

Anonymous said...

The Trooper may have acted unprofessionally, but he didn't kill Bland, Bland took her own life. Did the Trooper's actions add to Bland's mental health stress? Maybe, but her mental health issues didn't start with the traffic stop. What about sitting in jail three days because no one would pay $500.00 to post her bond? Think that may have triggered a mental health episode? Yes, probably much more than the traffic stop. All the comments that Bland's family couldn't come up with $500.00 doesn't float. Did you watch the press conferences? All were dressed to the nines, plenty of money for clothes and jewelry, guess none for Bland's bonds. Tragic yes, Trooper's fault she's deceased, no.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8/05/2015 05:43:00 PM, McCraw answers to the governor, not the lying sack of .... heading up that committee who sees racism in everything, his own traffic video showing the kind of treatment we all would like though he felt belittled and otherwise offended.

Acerbic, Grits continues to skewer those he sees fit to, if you don't like it than by all means go start your own blog. He has said repeatedly that this blog is for him, not general public consumption, attacking him while he is not here to defend himself most cowardly.

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Gritsforbreakfast said...

Acerbic, are you really under the impression that not enough people have called Encina names or that if I do it will somehow improve things?

If you don't like the blog or find it useless, don't visit. Easily fixed.

Anonymous said...

Another victim of the drug wars. Long ago cops started minor traffic stops looking for pot users. Thats it...No public safety issue just trying to make a bust. This way they can secure more federal money grow the force and get promotion or raise. They run back to the station and brag about the drug bust they made. This is also why they are armed to the teeth.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8/07/2015 10:33:00 AM, the myth of cops making busts to promote was discredited decades ago, they don't get federal money for doing so on a day to day basis or raises based on it either. Unless they make a bust involving an 18 wheeler of pot or a truck load of cellophane wrapped money, they don't generally brag either. That most have a small back up weapon to go with their primary handgun hardly qualifies them as "armed to the teeth" too. By promoting myths, you weaken efforts for reform, giving those who most need it an escape by virtue of the lies told.

In my experience here in Texas, most cops do very few traffic stops, the bulk of that chore handled by specially assigned traffic units who write scores of tickets or warnings. Most of those do not tear apart cars looking for drugs or weapons, happy enough to move onto the next stop until their day is finished. But it has been suggested to me that those wanting to remove civil service protections fail to realize that doing so will open the possibility of promotions no longer based on testing and moving to productivity or personal relationships instead.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@12.53 - I've never heard civil service critics suggest ending testing. I have seen bill language to take points off the test result for sustained misconduct allegations and excessive force, which imo is an excellent idea.

Anonymous said...

Grits, the bulk of calls to "end civil service" are just that, to end it altogether and make employees "at will". Politicians that seek to end pesky protections for employees with regard to due process have long complained how their lack of being able to pick their own supervisors and managers. After all, testing prevents them from picking the "best" employees, such testing an impediment just as forcing their chiefs to follow any sort of rules in firing. So if you haven't heard it, you've either been too focused on one aspect of the whole process or you've not cared to listen to the biggest critics of it. Agencies that lack formal civil service protection often have very minimal protections for employees, making said employees loyal to their appointed or elected chief rather than the people they serve, look at the history of big cities like Houston for examples.

Personally, I'd be all for points taken off for sustained (and upheld) misconduct or even a period of reckoning preventing promotion for a period of years, Civil Service law instead provides for things like "the rule of three" that a chief can use to bypass an employee's promotion altogether. But again, most attacks on civil service come from the far right by those whose ideology is to hate the thought of unions or associations that have the audacity to hire lawyers to hold an agency to state laws and rules of conduct.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to jump into a debate about unions, but, I have to take issue with your statement, regarding the motivations of those who criticize unions. Unfortunately, it is way off base. Like many things, there is right on both sides of the issue. Unions exist for good reasons and often have accomplished very good things. I would not want to see them go away completely. However, they also have a bad side. I recently read an article, don't recall the details, but, basically it talked about a high ranking official in a fire department whose job was to deal solely with union issues. He complained that he didn't need 40 hours a week to do that job and wanted to be able to do actual fire department work as well. The union would not allow it. So, we have taxpayer money being wasted to pay for a full time position that didn't need to be full time. Unfortunately, unions often make demands that are unnecessary and wasteful of taxpayer resources. This is often accomplished by leaders who are attempting to make themselves look good to the membership. The membership needs to address these issues and make sure their demands are reasonable. Additionally, union members need to realize that when economic times are hard and everyone else is having to cut back, they need to not act like they are too good to suffer with everyone else. In the private sector, I have seen unions put good companies out of business because they refuse to accept cut backs when the company is struggling. In these situations that stubborness resulted in harm to the members themselves because they ultimately lost their jobs. So, the people who criticize unions are not as evil as you attempt to portray them. Instead, they often have legitimate criticism which the union leadership and members need to take seriously.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:06 - I get the impression he was speaking about Texas. As a right to work state where unions in general have little power, public safety unions are technically associations since they generally lack anything approaching collective bargaining. Lacking the right to strike removes all teeth from a union and all public safety unions have contract clauses regarding layoffs in hard times. Public safety unions in Texas have no power to dictate to management much of anything but regarding civil service protections, the more people know how scant they are, the fewer that are willing to work in the field.

Baghdadbob said...

Sandra Bland's death was by suicide. To suggest that anyone or anything other than her self was responsible is ridiculous. I was taught a lesson, many years ago, by a friend who was a police officer. If I was ever stopped by a police officer;

1. I should remove my billfold and place it on the dash, in plain sight.
2. Keep my hands on the steering wheel.
3. I should answer the officers questions in a respectful manner.
4. I should not make any sudden moves that might cause the officer to think that I mean him harm.

When I was in Iraq, and I carried a gun, I assumed that every civilian wished me harm. I came home with a Battalion of over 450 alive and uninjured. We did so because we asked for respect and gave respect. It comes down to respect no more no less.

If you think the officer is responsible for Bland's death, then why stop there? What about the car manufacturer, no car- no stop? The car salesman? The road builder? The road engineer? I guess ultimately Society as a whole, and that would include all of us, had a hand in Sandra's death.

Anonymous said...

12:01 you're a fucking moron. I doubt you ever went anywhere near Iraq.

Anonymous said...

@12:01 Yeah, Baghdadbob was in Iraq. His nickname was actually 'BaghdadBOBOSO'.

Anonymous said...


I don't doubt she committed suicide. But, even if she hadn't died, do you think the officer's actions were appropriate? That is the real question? Is this the way we want law enforcement to treat people?

I have a news flash for you - AMERICA IS NOT IRAQ! Do you really want the police to act like the military in a war situation? It amazes me how some folks seem to crave the idea of living in a police state. Yet, the same people will complain about the overreach of the government. There is a major disconnect in their thinking. If you want America to be like Iraq, you are screwed up. Go to the VA and get some help.

Anonymous said...

How do you remove your billfold from a hip piocket AND keep your hands on the steering wheel? Won't the cop think you're reaching for a gun? Your cop friend gave you contradictory advice, Baghdadbob, but you're apparently too dense to realize it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:09/12:40, please point me to these critics you speak of who want civil service abolished entirely. Give me links. Name names. I've been round and round this block for two decades and in my experience you're misrepresenting the debate. Ditto for 12:52.

Anonymous said...

Still erasing responses Scott?