At around 9.00 on the Morning of Friday, July 10, 2015 an Sandra Bland, a 28 year old African American woman was driving to work to finish her first week in a new job. In thirty minutes time, a perverse set of circumstances ensured that Sandra wouldn’t make it to work that day. In fact Sandra would never make it to work anywhere, ever again.
Sandra was not killed in a traffic accident, nor gunned down as an innocent bystander in one of America’s increasingly popular mass shootings. What started the chain of events that ultimately led to Sandra losing her life was her failure to signal. I’ll write that again, her failure to signal. No matter how you say it, write it, or read it, it never makes any sense. She failed to signal, and three days later, she died, while still in police custody. The story being, she failed to signal and now she is dead.
Now of course the legalistic pedants among us will jump up and down screaming foul play, they’ll say “but Sandra wasn’t in jail for failing to signal, she was in jail for resisting arrest,” and this is of course true, (although wasn’t she protected by the 4th amendment against unreasonable search and seizures?). But, why was she being arrested, for failing to extinguish a cigarette in her own car? Surely in the home of Lady Liberty, and “the land of the free”, citizens can’t be arrested for smoking a cigarette in their own car. Why did officer Brian Encinia demand Sandra to exit her car? Shouldn’t he have issued the ticket, tipped his hat and sent Ms. Bland on her way? As soon as officer Encinia ordered Sandra Bland to step out of her car he acted as a catalyst in the escalation of a fractious situation. Another way of saying it is he poured fuel onto the fire. All Officer Encinia needed to do, all he had the right to do was to have issued the warning or ticket relevant to her traffic infraction. What did the officer see to prolong detaining Sandra Bland?
In an article on attn.com criminal defense attorney John Hamasaki (http://hamasakilaw.com/) provides his interpretation of the events and legal implications, as witnessed from the dashcam of the police car.
there’s a term we hear in the criminal law field– “somebody failed the attitude test.” And when somebody fails the attitude test, things escalate. Again, there is no “attitude test” that’s permissible as a basis for police encounters, meaning police officers don’t get to harass you because you have a bad attitude, or you don’t show them the proper deference.
Hamasaki continues by saying:
Once the investigative detention relating to the traffic stop was complete, he had no basis to detain her, no basis to order her to put out her cigarette, and no lawful basis to order her out of her vehicle.- Hamasaki
For the full article follow the link: http://www.attn.com/stories/2498/sandra-bland-arrest-lawful
While Hamasaki’s comments are both interesting and enlightening, I’m an old fashioned, simple sort of a person. All this legal interference, interpretation of the law and so on, only serves the needs of sustaining an over developed legal system. The law is there to protect the citizens, by their nature laws should be reasonable and have an element of common sense. Those empowered to enforce the laws should only be asked to uphold reasonable laws, and have received the training necessary to do the job. The point I am laboring towards is that had the officer used what some might call discretion, but what I’ll refer to as common sense, today Sandra Bland is alive.
Upon entering the Waller County Jail, Sandra Bland was asked some standard questions. These revealed that earlier this year she had taken a drug overdose following a miscarriage. To most human beings she had suffered significant emotional trauma in the past year. Also, if someone answers yes to that question, doesn’t that triggersomething happening, otherwise what is the purpose of asking it? What we’ve seen is a woman admitting to those detaining her that she had tried to kill herself in the previous 6 months, then killing herself with material supplied by the custodians, whilst under their care. While Waller County Jail might not have directly killed Sandra, dereliction of duty bordering on complete incompetence seems highly likely.
Now an appeal to pathos; when looking at the circumstances of this shameful and unnecessary death what I find most saddening is how Sandra’s life might have played out had fate been more benevolent, had luck gone her way, had she been white. Had circumstances been different, it is conceivable that today she would be the mother of a young baby. Where there could have been joy and so much life celebrate, instead became story of tragedy and death.
Now an appeal to anger; I’m tired of hearing about people dying unnecessarily, and what happened to Ms. Bland was as unacceptable as circumstances get. In the past I have watched the news, felt pissed, shrugged my shoulders and got on with my life, but enough’s enough. Below is the link to the Waller County Sheriff’s complaints and compliments webpage (compliments?) I know most of you are too busy, or too tired, or just don’t care enough, but if some of you could drop them a line expressing your thoughts, keeping the pressure on the murderous swine, it’s a legitimate reason to rant at fascist law enforcement, and maybe you’re doing something that just might help prevent this from happening again.