The vast majority, probably something like ninety-nine percent of law enforcement officials are amazing and wonderful people. They put their life on the line every day, try to make the world a better place, and do things that would make most of us wet our pants and go suck our thumbs in the corner.
The problem is that there are some mixed up in there who are not all that amazing. They are people on power trips, bad tempers, short fuses, and sometimes poor judgment. Oh, and sometimes they are racists or sexist too.
Apparently Sandra Bland had an encounter with one of these latter kinds of law enforcement officials which tragically led to her eventual death in a county jail cell. The story is everywhere, but click here for a link to a CNN article. Below I have included a good video from PBS.
I do not believe her death was intentional or the result of physical abuse. All the evidence that I have seen indicates she actually did commit suicide and that she had a history of abusing herself and mental distress. Of course, this needs to be investigated thoroughly by an independent agency (FBI) but the evidence currently seems to point that direction. Waller County (A large county between Brenham and Houston) is probably liable for not noticing these signs of distress and making certain she got psychological care, as well as liable for leaving her alone in a jail cell with the means, but none of these are malicious, racists, or sexist.
What is malicious and possibly racist or sexists is why she was even in jail in the first place. The dashcam that has been released is breathtaking. It is hard for me to believe that a Texas state trooper would do the things I see here. First, she was pulled over for not signalling a lane change. Really? Who gets pulled over for that? Does anyone here besides me think the real reason might have been she was guilty of driving while black?
Second, we see that the officer is mad because she will not put out her cigarette. Should she have put the cigarette out? Probably, but that is not the point. The point is that smoking a cigarette while driving is not illegal and should not have even been part of the officers discussion with Bland.
Third, the trooper demands that she gets out of the car, and when she resists, he insists that he will “yank” her out of the car and “light her up.” That is when things really escalated.
It is clear to me that Sandra Bland should never have been arrested. I do not know what the trooper’s motives were. Maybe he was having a bad day. However, people should not be afraid of their police, and police should never be arbitrary with the trust we put in their hands. What I saw on that dashcam makes me afraid of the police and afraid for my wife or daughter when they drive. I also see a man who is on a power trip. He does these things to this woman because he can. He doesn’t have to. He shouldn’t. None of this is a big deal.
But he is a policeman. He has a gun. He is a man. He can make her do what he wants, and that is what he does. It is an arbitrary display of force that is despicable. One of the lingering questions in my mind is, how many others? We know about this one because Bland died. If she’d not died, we would never know about it. How many other women, black women, black people, or just people in general have been subjugated to arrest for a lane change violation while smoking a cigarette? That is the question I want to know the answer to. Another question I have is why was she still in jail three days later?
Keep in mind, the trooper did not kill Sandra Bland. She killed herself. But she would have never been in that situation had she never been unjustly arrested, jailed, and isolated in a place far from home.
image from nbcnews.com