On the death of Sandra Bland
July 26, 2015 12:26 PM   Subscribe

 


Sandra Bland and the ‘lawful order’ problem

The Bland video brings up an overlooked problem with the law of police-citizen encounters. The police can back up their orders with force because it’s often a crime to disobey a lawful order from a police officer. But from a citizen’s perspective, it’s often impossible to know what is a lawful order. As a result, it’s often impossible for citizens to know what they can and can’t do during a police encounter.
posted by bunderful at 12:45 PM on July 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


I like to imagine the fact that they suspended the officer responsible for the arrest immediately after reviewing the footage is a sign that the acknowledge this was an illegal arrest. Three days in jail for failure to use a blinker when the only reason she was changing lanes wad to get out of the officer's easy in the first place? Racist Bullshit of the highest order.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2015 [53 favorites]


Law Enforcement’s “Warrior” Problem: "Modern policing has so thoroughly assimilated the warrior mythos that, at some law enforcement agencies, it has become a point of professional pride to refer to the “police warrior.” Similarly, a wide variety of sources identify police officers as warriors. This is more than a relatively minor change in terminology. Though adopted with the best of intentions, the warrior concept has created substantial obstacles to improving police/community relations. In short, law enforcement has developed a “warrior” problem. ...

"It is essential to set the proper tone for an encounter, and the tone that best preserves officer safety is widely thought to be one of “unquestioned command.” But like the use of physical force,the assertive manner in which officers set the tone of encounter can also set the stage for a negative response or a violent interaction that was, from the start, avoidable. From the warrior perspective, the solution is simple: the people with whom officers interact must accede, respecting officers’ authority by doing what they are told. The failure to comply is confirmation that the individual is an enemy for the Warrior to vanquish, physically if necessary. And this creates avoidable violence."
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:48 PM on July 26, 2015 [51 favorites]


I like to imagine the fact that they suspended the officer responsible for the arrest immediately after reviewing the footage is a sign that the acknowledge this was an illegal arrest

I think the official word was he violated the "politeness" policy by saying stuff like, "I'm gonna light you up," or whatever.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:50 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The second link discusses whether the arrest was legal and good policing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yep. By all accounts the arrest was legal but awful, terrible policing.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


By all accounts

I do not believe this is the case. If what Sandra says in her own words is true (that she changed lanes to get out of the police car's way), that would not be a lawful stop, nor is it lawful to ask someone to get out of their car because they sassed you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2015 [29 favorites]


Agreed, did quick draw get suspended?
posted by clavdivs at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2015


A policeman once pulled me over for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, and when he found out I was driving to jury duty, he tore up the ticket. That was good policing, but I now feel really guilty.
posted by acrasis at 1:08 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


nor is it lawful to ask someone to get out of their car because they sassed you

the tpm link quotes an expert who says (my bold, ed.):
Encinia orders her out of her car, saying, “Well, you can step on out now.” This was a command. In a 1977 case, Pennsylvania v. Mimms, the Supreme Court held that officers can, at their discretion, order a driver to exit the vehicle during a traffic stop (a later case expanded the rule to other vehicle occupants). That rule was justified, the Mimms Court said, because the importance of officer safety outweighs what the Court saw as the “mere inconvenience” of having to exit one’s vehicle. Although the rule is grounded in safety, officers do not need to articulate any safety concerns or any other reason in each case; they have carte blanche to require someone to exit a vehicle during the course of a traffic stop. Encinia had the authority to order Bland to exit her vehicle.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:10 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If what Sandra says in her own words is true (that she changed lanes to get out of the police car's way), that would not be a lawful stop

She was pulled over for not signalling, it doesn't really matter why she was changing lanes, right? His determination to just give her a warning was appropriate, he just lost his shit when she was impolite about it and got too worked up about the cigarette. I can see why he would ask someone to put it out, it could be used to cover up odors of alcohol or marijuana or it could be flicked as a sort of weapon. But the stop is essentially over here, just give her the warning and move on. He didn't have to freak out because she didn't respect his authoritah.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


.

(I'm still enraged and devastated by her death to the point where I'm not able to discuss it calmly, but I will say, I am not a conspiracy-minded person and even I think this smells to high heaven. I have seen and read solid enough evidence for me to question everything from whether the arrest indeed was legal up to and including whether Ms. Bland died by her own hand. And frankly the stop itself should be called into question because the video makes very clear Bland changed lanes to get out of the path of a speeding police car. NWA can say the rest.)
posted by sallybrown at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2015 [34 favorites]


She was pulled over for not signalling, it doesn't really matter why she was changing lanes, right?

Since we have no way of knowing if she signaled or not, I'm going to say it does matter.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2015 [5 favorites]




Since we have no way of knowing if she signaled or not, I'm going to say it does matter.

They released the video, she didn't.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:19 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die, I hadn't seen that part. I still don't think it matters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2015


Suicide rates for the recently incarcerated are very very high.If she was on her way to get job she missed the first the days of work. In addition If she was on epilepsy medication the withdrawl could have increased her anxiety, as well as coming off of marajauana usage would have compounded the problem.With a huge transition of a new job and place to live, a history of depression and the appalling way she was treated(and we do not know about what happened in the 72 hours she was there) it is a very sad ending. (If that is what happened).
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


CNN's Harry Houck: Sandra Bland was 'arrogant from the very beginning'
Why doesn't he just call her "uppity" and be done with it?
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2015 [88 favorites]


Drinky Die, I hadn't seen that part. I still don't think it matters.

Your last comment said you thought it mattered? Or was that a typo?
posted by Justinian at 1:23 PM on July 26, 2015


Sorry, to clarify, I don't care if she signaled.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


My real question is what the hell was she, and so many others, doing in jail for three days without a hearing? There are a lot of very valid questions about what happened in that cell, but we wouldn't be having this conversation if she wasn't locked up, and nobody's given a convincing reason why she was still in custody beyond not being able to scrape $500 together.

We live in a society where I can have the Best Burrito in America delivered to my door in less than 20 minutes for a couple of bucks. Surely we can get a defendant in front of a judge within 12 hours of arrest 365 days a year, no exceptions for weekends or holidays.
posted by zachlipton at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


She didn't have the $500 to get herself out is all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brandon, thank you for posting this. I kept thinking we needed to have this on Metafilter, but I could not collect my thoughts enough to come up with a good set of links.

Melissa over at Shakesville summed up how I feel pretty well (I think this was before the "she consumed a lot of marijuana" assertion and before they asked for her body back for another autopsy):

The possibilities are these: Bland died from an untreated head injury after State Trooper Brian Encinia bashed her head against the pavement and police staged her suicide; Bland died from an epileptic seizure (recall that Encinia's response to Bland telling him she had epilepsy was "Good") and police staged her suicide; Bland was killed or died in some other way in police custody and her sucide was staged; or Bland indeed took her own life, after she informed police of previous suicide attempts and they utterly failed to prevent another while she was in their care.
posted by emjaybee at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2015 [43 favorites]


Suicide rates for the recently incarcerated are very very high.

I had never heard this. Do you have any links/more information on this? Does it differ between incarceration for minor things like this and for serious/felony crimes?
posted by emjaybee at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2015


I thought this piece in the Texas Monthly was spot on. On 'Contempt Of Cop,' Jailhouse Suicide, And Sandra Bland
posted by Catblack at 1:34 PM on July 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Everyone Has the Right to Mouth Off to Cops. U.S. courts have made this clear again and again and again.

The courts have made it clear that individuals have a right to insult police officers. In 1987, the Supreme Court decided in City of Houston v. Hill that the First Amendment allows for a "significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers," ruling against a Houston, Texas, ordinance making it "unlawful for any person to assault, strike or in any manner oppose, molest, abuse or interrupt any policeman in the execution of his duty, or any person summoned to aid in making an arrest."

The case involved a gay rights activist who had been arrested numerous times for allegedly interfering with the police.

The First Amendment, the court noted, does not protect "fighting words," statements "that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." But criticism, even when angrily voiced, is protected.

"The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest," Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote for the majority, "is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state."

posted by naju at 1:35 PM on July 26, 2015 [91 favorites]


There are so many other angles to discuss here that I can understand the neglect of this point, but I think it's worthwhile to consider the stop that led to this end in the context of the War on Drugs and the funding of law enforcement through civil forfeiture laws.

I obviously can't know what was going through the officer's mind that led him to set in motion the whole chain of events that occurred here, but I can't help but suspect, when a minority person with out-of-state plates is pulled over on a seldom-enforced traffic violation in a small Texas town, that that decision is possibly not a genuine attempt to enforce the law in question but is instead an excuse for a pretext stop and that the officer's real motivation is to search for drugs or other contraband which may give legal cause to seize the car and other property.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2015 [33 favorites]


Emjaybee, the following pdf is the National Study of Jail Suicide. by the US Department of Justice.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:42 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Alexia that references recently released prisoners in England and Wales. Are you sure that's the right link?
posted by emjaybee at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2015


Hrm. Obviously not. Try this.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:52 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Stranger had a blog post about the stop just before Sandra Bland's. They described it as a good stop, and it certainly was light years better than his next one, but it sounded creepy to me, as though the cop likes pushing boundaries and exerting his authoritah:
A student, having apparently been pulled over for speeding and evidently not having had her insurance on her, receives a warning. (Her not having insurance is suggested by a request from the officer to have her father send insurance info by e-mail.) Encinia then asks her a series of personal questions: What year is she in in college, is she taking summer classes, how many classes she is taking?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 1:53 PM on July 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


What we know about Brian Encinia.

Not much, except he hasn't been a cop long. Anything online appears to have been scrubbed, though possibly there wasn't much to begin with.
posted by emjaybee at 2:06 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


obody's given a convincing reason why she was still in custody beyond not being able to scrape $500 together.

That's all the reason one needs to be locked up for however long it takes in Bumfukistan, Texas for the county judge to decide to hold bail hearings. Which might be a week or more in rural counties.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


My real question is what the hell was she, and so many others, doing in jail for three days without a hearing? There are a lot of very valid questions about what happened in that cell, but we wouldn't be having this conversation if she wasn't locked up, and nobody's given a convincing reason why she was still in custody beyond not being able to scrape $500 together.

Because giving a bail bondsman $500 for the privilege of the cop being a complete fucking tool to you is a completely reasonable solution to this problem.
posted by Talez at 2:16 PM on July 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Why I’m Not Ready To Rule Out Suicide In the Case of Sandra Bland
Not only do I believe that the impacts of violence against Black bodies could push someone to mentally breaking, I also refuse to say Sandra Bland didn’t commit suicide because she is “not that type of person”. It is dangerous to push that narrative because it implies that there is a type, and does not leave room for nuanced discussions of mental health in the face of violence.
posted by andoatnp at 2:18 PM on July 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Modern policing has so thoroughly assimilated the warrior...

What other personas could police rather assimilate? Lawyer? Social worker? Referee? Parent? Cool uncle? Prudish aunt?
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:24 PM on July 26, 2015


Servant and Protector?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:25 PM on July 26, 2015 [78 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left. A former cop, then a prosecutor, then a judge, was on tv and stated that the arrest was within the law though he certainly would have acted in a more professional manner. He noted that it is important to know fully the laws of a state before claiming something is or is not legal.

Did the cop know the driver was black when he decided to stop her for changing lanes without a signal? I do not know.

Dismiss the pot, etc in the poor girl's body, but thus far her death is ruled a suicide--that too might have and should have been prevented, but it seems self inflicted and not done by the police dept. What then we seem to have is a troubled young woman, possibly harassed for no great reason, or possibly because of a racist cop, who reacted in a tragic manner.
Yes. racism is rampant in our nation. And yes, many blacks are told to react so as not to antagonize a cop or bring out a racist reaction, and by so doing find themselves acting in an uncle tom manner, a manner very tough to stomach.

Cops, most, are probably racist, know it or not...but then they come from the larger society, the one we live in, the one that, in my case, has no blacks living anywhere near where I live, and precious few attending the schools my kids went to.

Ever been stopped for any driving incident by a cop? How did you react? challenge the cop in any way?
posted by Postroad at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2015


Ever been stopped for any driving incident by a cop? How did you react? challenge the cop in any way?

These questions are irrelevant to Sandra Bland's rights.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:31 PM on July 26, 2015 [54 favorites]


I don't know if anyone else has been following the saga of Meagan Taylor, who spent more than a week in jail in Iowa for being some combination of black, trans, and broke. The only reason she got out was that jail staffers were uncomfortable with the situation, and the warden eventually called a reporter, hoping that the reporter would write a story that would get the attention of activists. If the warden hadn't done that frankly pretty astounding thing, Taylor would still be in jail, in isolation, charged with possession of drugs without a prescription (for having hormones that she uses as part of her transition) and an unpaid fine from when she was 17. It's beyond fucked up. It's beyond fucked up that she was arrested in the first place, and it's beyond fucked up that she would have had to stay in jail indefinitely because she couldn't come up with a couple of thousand dollars to pay off her bail and fine. (It's also beyond fucked up that the jail wouldn't house her with other women, but that's not directly applicable to Sandra Brand's case.) Even assuming that Brand's suicide really was a suicide, she should never have been arrested for contempt of cop, and she should never have been held in jail because she couldn't afford bail. It makes you wonder how many other people this shit is happening to. I'm guessing a lot, with all sorts of serious consequences.
What other personas could police rather assimilate? Lawyer? Social worker? Referee? Parent? Cool uncle? Prudish aunt?
What the fuck are you talking about? They don't have to assimilate a persona. They can do their job competently and respectfully. They do not have to be a warrior or a cool uncle: they can be a competent cop. That is not too much to ask.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:32 PM on July 26, 2015 [73 favorites]




As far as a persona goes, how about "non-asshole?"
posted by Slinga at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left. A former cop, then a prosecutor, then a judge, was on tv and stated that the arrest was within the law though he certainly would have acted in a more professional manner. He noted that it is important to know fully the laws of a state before claiming something is or is not legal.

The ghost of Lewis Powell is alive and well here. Maybe we can solve the entire problem by printing "objects in mirror are less racist than they appear" on the side view mirrors of cars to reassure black people.
posted by Talez at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


.

Her mug shot has been haunting me this week. Crying, dazed, the broken shoulder she complained to her sister about visible on the frame. Her facebook videos have been haunting me too. I cannot watch her vlogs without choking, especially the one she begins in a soft voice, saying, "good morning, my beautiful kings and queens."

As to whether or not she may have killed herself after being psychologically broken down by her treatment at the hands of the officer and the jail, even though her family thought this was so far from her normal mental state. One thing that has been bothering me is an inconsistency on her intake forms: one specifies that she was taking Keppra for her epilepsy; another has "no" checked off in answer to the question, "are you currently on any medication?" It is standard practice for jails to punitively deny prisoners their meds, and when I went to check up on the symptoms of abrupt Keppra discontinuation, suicidality is way up there, a big enough issue that the drug manufacturers talk about it on their promotional website, as well as many other extreme neurological and psychological effects. I don't know if that may have been a factor or if it was simply another way the Waller County Jail tortured Sandra before her death, but it's been scraping at my mind. That there are *so* many possibilities for how she may have died due to violence or negligence is soul rending, including all the possible causes listed at Shakesville and in the linked article about mental health. Ultimately Sandra died because she was a black woman who knew her rights and refused to grovel, because the police mentality towards people they have deemed a threat to their authority, to black people, to frankly anyone they take into custody, is that society is better off without them in it. She might as well have been kidnapped off the street to be executed. In her mug shot, she looks like the pictures ISIS released of James Foley before his death: a person of immense integrity and promise, being held and photographed in pain by the people who would soon put them to death. It's unbearable to look at.

Rest in power, beautiful one.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:40 PM on July 26, 2015 [53 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left.

Setting aside that in this country people are legally "innocent until proven guilty", to me at least the police have forfeited the benefit of the doubt. Is literally every person of color arrested "innocent" of committing a crime? Almost certainly not, but I think in any individual case at this point it is very, very reasonable to start by assuming (and, again, this is one of the assumptions on which our justice system is built) that the person arrested is innocent. This should not only apply to white people.

At the very least, this woman died in police custody and that is something that should never happen. In that sense, she's a victim of racism whether or not she is "innocent" and being rude to police officers is not illegal and, even if it were, it is certainly not a capital offense, especially without trial. Jesus.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:42 PM on July 26, 2015 [51 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. I doubt it was intentional, but framing the people cops are interacting with as animals in a thread that deals specifically with race is a horrifically unfortunate choice. Please don't. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:42 PM on July 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


What then we seem to have is a troubled young woman

I'm curious about this phrasing. What about her comes off as "troubled" to you? I have to admit, that suggestion (not just from you, it's being pushed in the media) really sets me on edge. From what I know about her, she seems to have been a perfectly healthy human who was understandably angry about the way black people are treated in this country. Being outspoken and woken up to the truth is not troubled.
posted by naju at 2:44 PM on July 26, 2015 [51 favorites]


If by their actions they needlessly put a vulnerable young woman into a situation where she killed herself, then they have neither protected nor served. There was never any reason to do anything but give her a ticket and send her on her way. Now she's dead. Mouthing off to a cop, smoking a cigarette, refusing to exit her car might not be civil things, but they are not deserving of death, or even of arrest.

I am not really interested in parsing the exact amount of racism involved in this encounter though I am very comfortable with it being "more than 0%." A remarkable number of black people end up dead in police custody, or due to police mishandling, or in "altercations" even though they are unarmed, or mentally ill, or suffocating, or a child, or having a seizure, or in other ways posing no actual threat to an officer's safety.

The police have too much power and too much freedom to abuse that power. And they have done so.

And that has poisoned the well so thoroughly that yes, I do assume a black person being approached by a cop is likely to be getting treated in a way a white person would not. Perhaps that's unfair to cops.

But they are the ones who poisoned that well.
posted by emjaybee at 2:45 PM on July 26, 2015 [50 favorites]


...another has "no" checked off in answer to the question, "are you currently on any medication?"

Checking "yes" can result in a period of medical observation to determine the need for medication, followed by a return back into the system, lengthening the time before a hearing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:46 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


From what I know about her, she seems to have been a perfectly healthy human who was understandably angry about the way black people are treated in this country.

This is a really good point; I obviously have very little information about stuff like her medical history, but in an unhealthy situation (like, for example, living in a racist country where police can shoot people with few or no consequences), sometimes an "unhealthy" reaction is the only healthy response to a fucked-up situation.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:48 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ever been stopped for any driving incident by a cop? How did you react? challenge the cop in any way?

I have not, but I'm sure some of us in this thread have. Anyone who can come in here and say they were rude to a cop when they were pulled over has an indisputably better quality of life than Sandra Bland right now. As someone else posted, everyone has the right to mouth off to cops. And cops have to right to be frustrated or hurt by that or whatever emotions it is that people have when they are mouthed off to, but they don't get to drag someone out of a car for that in particular and no other reason.

Why I'm Not Ready to Rule Out Suicide in the Case of Sandra Bland

andoatnp, thanks for posting that article. That has been bothering me from the beginning - that people are saying that she wasn't the "type" who would commit suicide. That conversation seemed like a detractor from the primary issues to me - or, at the very least, highly inflammatory - but I read that article several days ago and thought that she handled it expertly. I think it is important to keep that as part of the conversation. I can't look at side-by-sides of her and her mugshot because her mugshot is so lifeless and defeated. Did she kill herself? I have no idea and I'm leaning no, but I do know that "she wasn't the type" is something a lot of people say when someone they know commits suicide and it's wonderful that someone pointed that out.
posted by good lorneing at 2:49 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm curious about this phrasing. What about her comes off as "troubled" to you?

There was a previous suicide attempt. There were 30 healing cuts on her wrists possibly indicating some more recent troubled behavior. She had significant past interaction with police, including a DUI. It sounds like someone who may have been struggling with some personal issues to me.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:50 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Ever been stopped for any driving incident by a cop? How did you react? challenge the cop in any way?"

I want to share this here that a friend posted the other day because it was brilliant and she made it public so it could be shared:

"Listen. This is embarrassing but here goes: One time I got pulled over for speeding and got upset with the officer. I was clearly in the wrong with this particular stop--doing something like fifteen? twenty? miles over the speed limit.

But I was a pretty reckless driver in my teens and early twenties, and already had points on my license. I was mad about getting another ticket, and even though there was no one to blame but myself, I got testy with the cop, and IIRC, refused to take the ticket from him and sign it. And argued with him. And then blamed him for making me too upset to drive home. (I had worked myself up real good.) (Yes, see, this is extremely embarrassing.)


You know what happened? The cop called my mommy. And I went home and fell asleep in my own bed that night. And sixteen years later I'm still alive.

Is this because I'm white?

There's no way to know. The cop who pulled me over that night was a decent guy. Many cops are. I'm NOT saying the particular cop in my story WOULD have responded differently if I were black. What I am saying, though, is it never even crossed my mind to be scared at that traffic stop. Mouthing off to that cop and refusing to accept the ticket never once occurred to me as actions that could land me in jail.

This is white privilege. White privilege is not even having it cross your mind, that if you mouth off to an officer and refuse to comply with his requests, that it might go badly. White privilege is taking it for granted that any officer who pulls you over, at all, will look at you and see a mixed-up kid in emotional distress, and feel sorry for you. And white privilege is taking it for granted that after you refuse to comply with an officer, even when he's in the right and you're in the wrong, you'll go home and sleep in your own bed that night."
posted by xarnop at 2:51 PM on July 26, 2015 [83 favorites]


There was a previous suicide attempt. There were 30 healing cuts on her wrists possibly indicating some more recent troubled behavior. She had significant past interaction with police, including a DUI. It sounds like someone who may have been struggling with some personal issues to me.

And how much of that did the arresting cop know? I'm going to think almost none.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:51 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


.
posted by riverlife at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2015


People keep forgetting is that America was literally built on the back of organized, professional and systemic racism. The education system, the political system, the judicial system? All worked in concert to keep non-whites out of civil society. Every aspect of that society has been almost irredeemably tained over the past three hundred years. We look at a 200%+ more blacks incarcerated than whites and declare the system is functioning as it should and that we WANT MORE. Which absolutely happened through the 1980s under Reagan.

To say that there's no racism at work and the police should have the benefit of the doubt? That's absolute fucking lunacy given the state of affairs of even recent living memory.
posted by Talez at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2015 [51 favorites]


I haven't seen where the charging documents have been posted, she was probably charged with resisting arrest, but disobeying a lawful order of a police order in Texas, which is what precipitated the resistance and subsequent escalation by the officer, is a misdemeanor traffic offense, punishable by a fine of less than $200. So it seems the progression went from failure to signal induced by the officer's aggressive driving -> refusing a lawful order -> resisting arrest.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:59 PM on July 26, 2015


I'm curious about this phrasing. What about her comes off as "troubled" to you?

As a followup to this, I think the reason my hackles are raised is because this is the talk of justification, of excuse, for running black people through the thresher of the unjust system: "he was a troubled young man." "She was a troubled young woman." I'm sick of hearing it.
posted by naju at 2:59 PM on July 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism

How is this not a straw man? Who assumed those two things?

I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left.

The implicit assumptions here are messed up. I don't even know where to begin -- it takes the US obsession with making the political spectrum all-pervasive and mapping it onto basic human and civilizational realities where it doesn't belong to a really f'd up level.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:01 PM on July 26, 2015 [34 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left.

No one is assuming this. And yet. Racial gap in U.S. arrest rates: 'Staggering disparity'... severe racial disparities in arrests the norm in America... mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness...

Ever been stopped for any driving incident by a cop? How did you react? challenge the cop in any way?

Yes, and this is the shit that gets me arrested, because I cannot fucking deal with cops. I hate police and come from a long line of people who hate them just as much, so the bile just starts pouring out as soon as one of them starts making whatever bullshit demands they love to make for no other reason than so they can make you, the sad little puppet, dance to their whims. They get so mad when they tell you to jump and you don't, even (especially) when you aren't constitutionally or legally obligated to do. But white privilege has insulated me to the nth degree, so while my refusal to dance nets me some roughing up and a few nights' stay in central, people of color in the exact same situation are losing their lives. The American criminal "justice" system is built on a foundation of racism and the blood of untold thousands of people of color stains it to the roots. Don't try to dance your way out from under the truth.

Rest in power, Sandra.
posted by divined by radio at 3:07 PM on July 26, 2015 [34 favorites]


The last time I got pulled over for speeding (guilty) my dog lunged at the state police officer through the window of my car. The officer stepped back , put his hand on his gun and asked me if he was going to be safe. What was I gonna say, no, my twenty pound dog is going to kill you. I got my dog somewhat under control and handed over my license. I could not find my registration or insurance card. He could have impounded my car on the spot and sent my terrier to the pound. He just wrote me up for speeding and let me go. I truly believe it was white privledge and age that saved the day.

Sandra Bland may have not been directly murdered by the police but they certainly assisted in her suicide. I can easily see someone losing hope in the situation she found herself in. The whole thing makes me ill.
posted by cairnoflore at 3:09 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The problem here is manifold.

To begin with, yes, police pulling over black people for Driving While Black is very much a real thing, and the statistics back that up. Black people are significantly more likely than white people to be pulled over while driving. [1]

And then there's the death in prison.

I don't say that it is impossible that Bland committed suicide. But after all the proof that the cops are busy murdering black people and then lying and fabricating evidence to justify it, I simply can't take any statement by the cops that Bland committed suicide at face value. The idea that the cops murdered her for being insufficiently submissive and refusing to kiss the ass of the cop who pulled her over for DWB is not at all outrageous when we consider the death of Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, and all the others the cops have murdered lately.

Maybe Bland really did kill herself. But until an independent investigation and an independent autopsy are completed there is no way I'll believe the cops didn't murder her.

The entire interaction between Bland and Encinia reveals Encinia to have been aggressively seeking any excuse to escalate the situation and arrest her. The sheer rage in his voice when she refuses to put out her cigarette is frightening.

The fact that she was held for three days because some macho cop decided she wasn't kowtowing to him enough is a near platonic example of how the criminal justice system in the US is stacked against poorer and browner people.

So yeah, maybe, possibly, the cops didn't murder Bland for grins and giggles (or to stop her from filing what would hopefully have been a very successful wrongful arrest and police brutality suit). But even if she did kill herself (which I still won't believe until I see evidence) every single other thing about the case is a stellar example of just how bad policing in the USA is and how pervasive racism is.

[1] I've experienced this myself, I'm white but my wife is black and while we were driving through Oklahoma one time we got pulled over basically because she's black. Sheriff's deputy pulled us over, ordered me out of the car, questioned us separately about why we were driving through his county, and then let us go when our stories matched. If either of us had been slightly uppity I'm sure he'd have come up with some reason to bust us.
posted by sotonohito at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2015 [27 favorites]


The last time I got pulled over for speeding (guilty) my dog lunged at the state police officer through the window of my car. The officer stepped back , put his hand on his gun and asked me if he was going to be safe. What was I gonna say, no, my twenty pound is going to kill you. I got my dog somewhat under control and handed over my license. I could not find my registration or insurance card. He could have impounded my car on the spot and sent my terrier to the pound. He just wrote me up for speeding and let me go. I truly believe it was white privledge and age that saved the day.

Please don't think of it as privilege. That's how every police interaction should go.

When people talk about police not being assholes as a white privilege I imagine an Onion article headlined "Police tired of being accused of racism, going to treat white people the same shitty way they treat black people".
posted by Talez at 3:13 PM on July 26, 2015 [11 favorites]




And how much of that did the arresting cop know? I'm going to think almost none.

He definitely knew she had epilepsy, because she cried that out after he slammed her head against the ground, to which he responded, "Good." Regardless of Encinia's brutality, the self harm, past suicide attempt, and past DUI are things the jail staff would absolutely have known about (and according to her intake forms, did know about), meaning there were precautions they should have taken to make sure she was safe while in their care. I'm also very, very skeptical that she took her own life, but any prisoner presenting a suicide risk should not have been in an isolation cell with any material (like industrial trash bags) that were not bolted down, and she should have been given frequent face checks. Waller County Jail noted on her intake form that she fit several of the criteria for a suicide watch, but implemented none of the safety precautions to adequately respond to that risk.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:28 PM on July 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


He definitely knew she had epilepsy, because she cried that out after he slammed her head against the ground, to which he responded, "Good."

I don't consider someone having epilepsy to be particularly troubled?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:31 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left. A former cop, then a prosecutor, then a judge, was on tv and stated that the arrest was within the law though he certainly would have acted in a more professional manner. He noted that it is important to know fully the laws of a state before claiming something is or is not legal.

The video shows the cop driving down a road, Sandra pulling out onto the road going the opposite direction, and the cop then immediately doing a Uturn and accelerating to approach her car.

The unsignaled lane change is not why he pulled her over. It's the post hoc rationalization for pulling her over.

Everyone on TV is talking about how B went to C went to D, and never seem to get things got from A to B.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:35 PM on July 26, 2015 [48 favorites]


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left.

I wonder how many of us here have ever been pulled over for failure to signal. I honestly didn't even know that was illegal until this case. Heck, out here in Hawaii, we would probably need to hire 5,000 new police officers to enforce this particular law since like half the state doesn't seem to want to use them ever.

I wonder how many of us white people here have had a police officer do a U-turn just to follow us (per the dashcam video).

The unsignaled lane change is not why he pulled her over. It's the post hoc rationalization for pulling her over.

Everyone on TV is talking about how B went to C went to D, and never seem to get things got from A to B.


Or, basically, what Pogo said.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 PM on July 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


I do not believe for a hot second that she committed suicide. I read something last night, can't find it, that pointed out many disparities in the actual photos of the cell from what the police said happened, including the garbage bag with which she allegedly hanged herself magically changing colour.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:40 PM on July 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't consider someone having epilepsy to be particularly troubled?

roomthreeseventeen, I apologize, I think I misinterpreted your comment-- you were saying that Encinia was absolutely not justifiably taking a "troubled" person into custody like some people have suggested, but I somehow quick-read the comment as a "well, how could they have known?" defense of Encinia and the jail's negligent behavior. Clarify: I don't think a person with epilepsy is troubled either, but I do think someone who has epilepsy who's just had a recent head trauma merits closer observation by the people holding her prisoner, which Sandra did not get. The arresting officer/jail staff were so lax about putting her in clear physical danger (and in fact expressed that putting Sandra's health in jeopardy was "Good") that they were very unlikely to give a fuck about any mental health risks she may have had, or not had, or which they incurred in her. Sorry for misreading and taking your words out of context; this is a heavy discussion and I should have been more careful.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2015


If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are leaning much too much to the left.
If we are to assume that every black citizen pulled over by the police AND THEN MISTREATED is innocent but a victim of racism I suspect we are LEARNING FAIRNESS.
FTFY.
Claiming that we're saying that every black confrontation with police is unjustified is the most "racist-poorly-disguised-as-colorblind" comment I've ever seen NOT deleted here.

Black vs. White isn't a Left vs. Right thing, unless you want to admit that the entire Right Wing is White Racist.
Even White Commentators on FoxNews AND DONALD FREAKING TRUMP are on the "Left" side on this one.

Here are the words of a cellmatewoman in the next cell.
Pyle says she wishes they had placed Bland in the cell with her and two other women.
"I don't think she should have been in the other tank alone by herself," Pyle said. "We're over here, we're trying to keep each other laughing all the time, and she's over there hearing that. That would make anybody sad."

Sounds like a (very successful) formula to drive a person to suicide. I wonder who from the jail tossed in the plastic bag and how much they did to suggest what to do with it. Even if she really did hang herself, I'd consider it homicide.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:55 PM on July 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, and yes, I've watched too many crime dramas, but; how hard would it be to hang her with a trash bag and claim she did it to herself? Would the examiner be able to tell any difference in the two deaths?

The only thing that makes me think that didn't happen is that it would probably take more than one cop and be harder to cover up.

But what if a cop strangled her with a trash bag? That might only take one. Would that look the same to an M.E.?

Mind you, this is some horrible shit to think about. I don't want it to be true. But given how she was treated for so little cause, if she kept saying things like "I'm going to sue this county as soon as I'm out of here," or some such, would it be possible for Encinia to panic and do something like that?
posted by emjaybee at 4:03 PM on July 26, 2015


emjaybee, what you're suggesting is very possible, especially considering that she would have been in a physically weakened state due to neurological complications of going off her meds and her untreated broken right arm/shoulder.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:08 PM on July 26, 2015


Please don't think of it as privilege. That's how every police interaction should go.

When people talk about police not being assholes as a white privilege I imagine an Onion article headlined "Police tired of being accused of racism, going to treat white people the same shitty way they treat black people".


This is exactly what people mean when they say 'white privilege.'
posted by shakespeherian at 4:09 PM on July 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


"White Privilege": I was borrowing my neighbor's car the other day and I saw a local cop car. I did a mental checklist to make sure everything was proper and legal just because I didn't want a hassle. Then I thought to myself... "but I'm an older white male [who has been pulled over 3 times in my 40+ year driving life and ALWAYS treated BETTER than I expected]... the Police is my friend... a racist asshole friend I'd never invite to a party, but still a friend."
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:12 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I do not believe for a hot second that she committed suicide. I read something last night, can't find it, that pointed out many disparities in the actual photos of the cell from what the police said happened, including the garbage bag with which she allegedly hanged herself magically changing colour.

I think that's woo-woo talk. This was obviously a BS arrest with racist overtones but there's no evidence this was anything but a suicide and good evidence that it was just that.
posted by Justinian at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The unsignaled lane change is not why he pulled her over. It's the post hoc rationalization for pulling her over.

It's also clear from the video that he approached her car aggressively in order to induce an unsignaled lane change or other minor pretext, like speeding up to slightly over the speed limit to avoid an aggressive driver approaching from the rear. That's how these cops in corrupt little shitholes that survive off asset forfeiture work, they identify a target, a minority driver with out of state plates, a fancy car with out of state plates, a car driving with dealer tags, anything that looks like a score, then provoke a confrontation. Try driving through East Tennessee, or southern Indiana and Illinois more than a time or two and you'll see it happen even if you manage to avoid getting pulled over yourself. Bland was a textbook target for a pretextual stop, which is exactly what happened in the released video.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:32 PM on July 26, 2015 [39 favorites]


If I had been a black male with a pit bull things would have turned out differently. Heck if I had been a black male with a kitten it would have turned out differently. That is why I considered it white privledge.

The only good thing coming from all of these events is white people are finally talking about racism instead of pretending it doesn't happen because it isn't happening to us.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:40 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


the Police is my friend... a racist asshole friend I'd never invite to a party, but still a friend."

I find city cops to be much better than suburban cops (fuck you Menomonee Falls PD) at traffic stops. Milwaukee cops seem a bit jaded and indifferent when they pull you over but suburban cops always seem to be looking for something to happen. A cop from a small suburb drew his gun on my wife when she was going to open the building up where she worked in the wee small hours. I guess she looked pretty menacing in scrubs with a set of keys in her hand. A cop in a different suburb (fuck you again Menomonee Falls PD) drew on the, black female, receptionist where I worked when she didn't pull over immediately but pulled into the parking lot at work instead when he hit his lights (aren't you supposed to go somewhere safe?). I don't know why the suburban cops always seem so uptight, maybe it's the boredom?
posted by MikeMc at 4:43 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Did we ever get an undoctored video? Did we ever figure out why it looks like her mugshot was taken when she was laying on the ground? Maybe I've spent too much time reading black activist analysis but mainstream media sure leaves some reporting to be desired.

She specifically mentions court. She was active on social media against police brutality. She seems to have just gotten started in a promising career. Maybe she was on the verge of suicide I don't know.

Cop harrasses and eventually beats a "random" black woman, googles her name, finds out she has a strong anti-police brutality social media presence, remembers line about going to court. I mean, to me, a random white guy on the Internet, the motive is pretty sound.
posted by M Edward at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's very likely he could have killed her with that initial slam to the hood. Epileptic seizures, especially the kind treated with a med like Keppra (which tends to be kind of last-resort due to the abovementioned horrible side effects), can be triggered by head injuries, and if it wasn't the head injury she was also tased at least once that we know of. Tasing an epileptic is extremely, extremely inadvisable.

She never should have been treated like that. From the beginning she shouldn't have. They're culpable because they put her in that position to begin with. She didn't slam her own head into the hood, she didn't tase herself, she didn't break her own shoulder, and she didn't voluntarily go off her (again, generally prescribed only when critical due to side-effects) meds. They did that to her.
posted by E. Whitehall at 4:51 PM on July 26, 2015 [34 favorites]


Did we ever figure out why it looks like her mugshot was taken when she was laying on the ground?

It doesn't, it looks like a pretty normal photograph.

This whole situation is terrible enough without out-there conspiracy theories.
posted by Justinian at 4:56 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


My friend sent me this link, which I thought was well written and well reasoned, but I still have to admit I don't think she killed herself.

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2015/07/why-not-ready-rule-out-suicide-in-the-case-of-sandra-bland/
posted by annathea at 4:57 PM on July 26, 2015


She never should have been treated like that. From the beginning she shouldn't have. They're culpable because they put her in that position to begin with.

If that cop, like so many, wasn't on a power trip this wouldn't have happened. There's no law that says you have to be friendly and courteous to a cop that pulls you over just like there's no law that says you can't smoke in your car during a traffic stop. The cops want subservience and it's galling. Sandra Bland's only crime was to not kiss that cops ass like he wanted. Ahh, I have to bow out of this thread now because I'm getting angry. Senseless, just fucking senseless.
posted by MikeMc at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


Not that it matters what I think or speculate, I just wanted to share the article and basically leave this here after a week of bursting into tears every time I see her face:

.
posted by annathea at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Did we ever figure out why it looks like her mugshot was taken when she was laying on the ground?

It doesn't, it looks like a pretty normal photograph.

This whole situation is terrible enough without out-there conspiracy theories.


Have you looked at it? That was absolutely taken on the floor of her cell. She was dead when they took it. Every cop in that station is an accessory to murder.
posted by kafziel at 5:04 PM on July 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I didn't mean to posit the picture was a conspiracy theory, it was something that quite a few people I respect pointed out. I dislike getting my info from buzzfeed but this seems to be a decent rundown, I guess. I personally find anything that Waller county officials say highly suspect.
posted by M Edward at 5:09 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's solid evidence to show that cops interact with POCs differently than with whites: they pull them over more frequently, they stop and question them more frequently, they search them more frequently, they arrest them more frequently. Every interaction has a chance of going wrong, even if it's made with the best of intentions and entirely to code: the subject may be sick or disoriented or distressed or whatever, or the police officer might misread something innocuous as a threat. So the fact that an interaction seems legitimate doesn't mean that it isn't part of a racist system and that the system isn't a threat to POCs. Police interactions are a threat to everyone (vastly more people die from interactions with the police in the USA than anywhere comparable), but the unequal distribution of police resources and attention means that they're a particular threat to POCs, even when everything is otherwise above board.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:09 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm looking at it right now. It looks like a photograph.
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


she didn't tase herself, she didn't break her own shoulder

I was not aware that she was tased or suffered a broken shoulder, do you have a link for that? As far as I'm aware, she claimed that it was broken but this was not diagnosed and she was only threatened with the taser.

Have you looked at it? That was absolutely taken on the floor of her cell. She was dead when they took it. Every cop in that station is an accessory to murder.

And the medical examiner is in on it? Better hope they never get that second autopsy. I mean...the only reason to take a mugshot of her when she is dead is because she was dead on arrival to the jail. Another inmate talked to her. This theory does not make sense.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:12 PM on July 26, 2015


And the medical examiner is in on it? Better hope they never get that second autopsy. And the people in the other cells who say they heard no struggle?

An autopsy showing asphyxiation is consistent with being strangled. And yeah, if the people in the other cells heard no struggle, that would certainly fit with her being dead when she got there, wouldn't it?
posted by kafziel at 5:16 PM on July 26, 2015


The "she was dead in the photograph" makes no sense anyway. The only reason to do such a thing would be to cover up the fact that Brand died before she was put in a jail cell. But we know that she didn't die before that because she left a voicemail for a friend from the cell. Why fake the photograph? It's nonsensical.

So it's not even an internally consistent conspiracy theory which seems like it should be the minimum thing required.
posted by Justinian at 5:16 PM on July 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think it's very possible the mugshot was taken on the floor, but there's no conclusive proof right now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:16 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


An autopsy showing asphyxiation is consistent with being strangled.

The time of death would be the issue there. We are talking three days worth of difference.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:19 PM on July 26, 2015


Unfortunately once both autopsies reveal a time of death inconsistent with the conspiracy theory it'll just disappear down the memory hole and people will still believe the next one. Not much that can be done about that I guess.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


To push back on the "this was a legal arrest" argument: I'm really not willing to concede that. Here's a counterpoint. A Lawyer Gave Us the Blunt Truth About Sandra Bland's Arrest

tl;dr: the stop and detainment was lawful. His continued detainment of her beyond giving her the warning was absolutely not. He goes on to say that she had a right to resist that unlawful detainment.
posted by naju at 5:40 PM on July 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Even if the second autopsy concludes that she died of suicide, there is enough recklessness on the part of the police that I hope her family sues for wrongful death.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:41 PM on July 26, 2015


More on the legality of the arrest from the Los Angeles Times.

I agree with the lawyer in naju's link about how things should work, I just think the guys in the LAT link are right about the way it does work. But its sort of a red herring since the entire situation was manufactured by the cop in the first place. None of this would have happened if he'd just not been a racist dickbag.
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on July 26, 2015


The #IfIDieInPoliceCustody hashtag just brought me to tears. We have to leave proof of our sanity because we're being targeted and murdered.

the trauma isn't just to sandra bland and her loved ones (regardless of whether this specifically was a suicide, the systemic injustice is the thing), it's to every black person who knows their number could come up.
posted by twist my arm at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I agree with the lawyer in naju's link about how things should work, I just think the guys in the LAT link are right about the way it does work.

When we're asking whether something is legal, though, it's not about should vs. reality. It's not a legal arrest. And it's such a pervasive problem that our first reaction is to assume it's okay, but it's not.
posted by naju at 5:52 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


A Lawyer Gave Us the Blunt Truth About Sandra Bland's Arrest

Yeah, this seems to the problem with that lawyer.s take:
Again, there are different laws throughout the country regarding some of these issues, so what I’m going to speak to is over general constitutional principles, and not specific state laws.
The second link in the post notes the cop was acting lawfully in ordering her from the car (though stupidly) and when Bland refused, she was violating a Texas law. So it was technically legal, but horribly handled and things just spiraled down from there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 PM on July 26, 2015


I read something last night, can't find it, that pointed out many disparities in the actual photos of the cell from what the police said happened, including the garbage bag with which she allegedly hanged herself magically changing colour.

NYT writer Charles Blow covers some of this in his Questions About the Sandra Bland Case column. It's worth a read.
7. Houston’s Channel 2 aired “exclusive video from inside the Waller County jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead.” In the video, a trash can — a very large one — is clearly visible. But, strangely, it appears to have a trash bag in it. If Bland used the trash bag to hang herself, where did the one in the can come from? Did they replace it? Why would the jail staff do that?

8. NBC News’ John Yang also toured the cell, and in his video he says that “things are really the same as it was that morning” when officers found Bland’s body, including food (“Dinner Untouched” was the language used in title of the video on NBCNews.com) and a Bible on the bed opened to Psalms. (That Bible appears to be closed in the Channel 2 video. Who opened it between the two videos?).

And what page is the Bible opened to in the NBC video? It is open to Psalm 119 and at the top of the page are verses 109-110: “Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.” Eerie. Or, convenient.

Also in the Channel 2 video, there are orange shoes on the floor by the bed. In the NBC video, they are gone. Who moved them? Why? Where are they?

Yang says of the trash bag in the can: “Around her neck, they say, was a trash bag, an extra trash bag from this receptacle.” So what gives here? “Extra trash bag”? Was there more than one trash bag in the cell or had that one been replaced?

(It is also worth noting that the video shows what appears to be a rope holding a shower curtain.)

Isn’t this an active investigation? Shouldn’t that cell be treated like a crime scene? Why are reporters allowed to wander through it? Who all has been in it?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:08 PM on July 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


The rhetorical priorities here are so strange to me. A racist arrest, a death in police custody, and you mainly want to talk about why the people who believe she was murdered (many of them black, many who have seen exactly that happen, and many who have been told in those cases that it couldn't possibly have been murder) are conspiracy theorists? I'm glad you're enjoying yourselves, I guess.
posted by invitapriore at 6:11 PM on July 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


Thank you, Pater.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:13 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]






Let's talk about Waller County (near to my hometown of Houston). It's got two things going for it: Highway 290, which is the main highway between Houston and Austin, and Prairie View A&M, a historically black college of which Sandra Bland was an alum and where she had just gotten that new job. Waller County is not a suburban area yet, though if Houston keeps expanding northwest, it will be in 20 years or so. I'm sure there are plenty of nice people in Waller County, but my impression of it as a city girl has always been (perhaps unfairly) country shithole full of racists fuckers, in large part because of the way the county treats Prairie View.

Wikipedia has a summary list of voting controversies involving Waller County and Prairie View, including, most recently, a consent decree in 2007-2008 that involved a voting controversy so egregious that the Bush Justice Department came down on them like a ton of bricks. As it happens, the gerrymandered district that included Waller County also included my residence on the northwest side of Austin (yes, I know), so I can talk a bit about the controversy from the news coverage at the time. Waller County got in trouble for refusing to put early voting machines on the Prairie View campus and only having them downtown.

Texas has extremely broad early voting laws: you can vote in a two week period preceding the election, no reason required, just go down and vote. I generally vote early because I can, and because my public library and my grocery store are early voting locations that are convenient to me and I will get to one or the other in those two weeks. A lot of Texans vote this way, so when Waller County refuses to put voting machines on campus for early voting, they are trying very obviously to discourage students from voting. As Wikipedia shows, there's a history of town-gown fighting over student voting dating back to the 1970s. The students and activists marched in 2008 over voting rights, and that's just the one I remember off the top of my head.

So when this asshole cop pulls over Sandra Bland, who was a Prairie View alum, who was an activist, and gets in her face about respecting his authoritah all South Park style, that's the context for me. Did the cops kill her? Fuck if I have the evidence to tell. But the idea that Bland's race played anything but a really significant role in that stop and ultimately her death is laughable to me.

(Anecdotally: my husband and I got pulled over last year, I think, on 290 in Waller County for speeding. The cop was very professional and polite, ticketed us--a white, middle-aged couple in a red VW Beetle--and sent us on our way. My husband paid the ticket online. Not at all the same.)
posted by immlass at 6:17 PM on July 26, 2015 [31 favorites]


I think for many of us, there is despair (after so many acquittals; Brown and others) of any truth ever coming out. If she was killed, the evidence is all in the hands of her killers, who also have a strong advantage in courts, not just for racial reasons, but because judges and juries tend to favor cops, even apparently murderous ones. So the idea that we might know, for sure, whether it was suicide or not seems out of reach. And then there's a possibility that maybe it really was, in which case, we don't want the world to shrug and say "welp, no crime here." Because they are responsible for her death either way.

When cops murder, the best you can hope for is that some outside evidence comes through that proves they did so. And how often is that going to happen? The foxes are in charge of the henhouse, know all its ins and outs, and have the power of life or death over the hens. If they have any brains at all, they're not going to leave evidence; they can also, by knowing the system, hopelessly muddle things by releasing confusing information in a slow drip that incriminates the victim, pressure other prisoners to corroborate, and rely on their chummy relationships with judges and M.E.s and DAs to keep things under control.

Like I said: they have too much power.
posted by emjaybee at 6:24 PM on July 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Brandon - the lawyer in my link says it's not a lawful detainment in the first place. The TX statute says she must comply with lawful orders, but he's arguing it wasn't a lawful order.

This question hinges on whether the traffic stop was finished and the lawful detention was complete. He received her license and registration, he wrote up her warning. The traffic stop was over. What was the point of the further requests and commands to step out of the vehicle? Did he have any reasonable suspicion for any wrongdoing? If not, then ordering her out of the car goes beyond what he was allowed to do.

If it was on a law school exam, I'd be sure to argue both ways. Then I'd side with this being an unlawful detainment.
posted by naju at 6:26 PM on July 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, it's a conspiracy theory, alright. In order for murder to be a credible theory, a lot of things would have to fall into place. I wouldn't begin to assume that the authorities had outright murdered a prisoner unless this took place:

-- in a country with a long history of discrimination and oppression of black people
-- in a country where that oppression often manifested itself in lynchings and extra-judicial killing
-- at a time when there were documented instances of police officers killing black people for incredibly flimsy reasons
-- at a time when police had been caught killing black people and then lying about it on the police reports
and even then, this would have to take place
-- with an unusually aggressive officer who misrepresented what happened in his report
--with a dash cam video that was suspect somehow--weird jumps and edits, maybe
--with inconsistencies on the jail intake forms
--in a notoriously racist county
--with a sheriff who was so racist he had actually been fired from a law enforcement position once before due to his documented racism
--and then weird consistencies in jail cell videos that were supposedly both taken before anything in the room had been touched.

I mean, I guess if all those things fell into place, I guess someone might wonder if it were murder. But that would be a really unlikely circumstance.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:27 PM on July 26, 2015 [103 favorites]


I hope her family sues for wrongful death.
It's inevitable and the police will settle for as much money as the family asks for just to keep the matter out of open court. That way, the edited 'arrest tape' and other inconsistencies can be neatly swept under the rug. Yes, the arresting officer was 'unusually agressive' but was he so compared to the rest of the county's law enforcement, including jail employees? We'll never know, because even as sloppy as the cover-up has been, everyone in the county knows to keep their mouths shut, and will just be relieved that won't have to testify under oath. (Of course, for law enforcement officers, lying under oath is something OTHER people get punished for).

I still think the most likely scenario is that she was actively driven to suicide. It's the best 'deniability' you can have, because she certainly can't testify to it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:46 PM on July 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think that the larger question here is not what happened to Ms. Bland (and I think it's horrible) but what we, as a society, are facing in regards to the policing of America. Someone above has mentioned the warrior mentality and it seems that is not good for anyone. Police or citizens. Someone has to stop the attitude of police that we are not at war with each other. This is not Baghdad, nor are the police the armed forces facing an armed insurgency.
posted by damnitkage at 7:01 PM on July 26, 2015


There's a lot of arguing about details and fine points, but gets so caught up in the minutiae that it loses sight of the bigger point: a woman is dead after interacting with the police, and they're not exactly forthcoming as to how or why. A second autopsy? A video with multiple versions that raises more questions than it answers? Calling the white funeral home to take care of the body?

A lot of people I'm following on Twitter have mentioned that had they been in that car, they'd have reacted the same way as seen in the video. (Echoing above, the #IfIDieInPoliceCustody tag is haunting, and shouldn't even fucking exist if this were a sane society.) But we live in a world where Sandra Brand is dead and they bought the Charleston killer Burger King for the ride back to the station.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think that the larger question here is not what happened to Ms. Bland (and I think it's horrible) but what we, as a society, are facing in regards to the policing of America.
We have a terrible habit in this country of looking for a "perfect example" of an injustice to drive reforms. But after Rosa Parks provided one in the 1950s, the reform-resistant have gotten far more effective at finding the imperfections they can use to disregard examples. Meanwhile, we are paying the price for our "warrior cops" and that is BILLIONS of dollars nationwide paying off "excessive force" and "wrongful death" cases (almost always before they go to trial) while the 'dangerous' job of policing now has less on-the-job deaths per-capita than trash collecting. Policing is absolutely American society's best career choice for anyone who didn't go to college but wants a middle-class job and guaranteed early retirement with a pension.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:26 PM on July 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


when he found out I was driving to jury duty, he tore up the ticket. That was good policing, but I now feel really guilty.

Acrasis , good policing, or trying to influence a potential juror?
posted by waitingtoderail at 7:26 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


So this was the straw that led to official check-ins between me and all of my Black friends. For days now, we've been hashing out the details of what will happen after a certain number of failed check-ins, what happens if someone is reported missing, what happens if someone is taken into police custody, shared contacts for lawyers to be called, and shared numbers of nearest next-of-kin. We've all used the #IfIDieInPoliceCustody hashtag in public spaces. If I hadn't kept up my aversion to being photographed (body issues) for the last 7 years, I'd probably scrub all of my social media profiles by now, like everyone else.

I safely assume that if I ever get arrested, there's a pretty good chance that I won't make it out alive. I assume that being polite will not save me, nor my perceived class. But I will be exceedingly polite and compliant, no matter how much it pains me to do so, in order to eliminate the number of nails hammered into my coffin by the local media, if it even came to that.

And the sad thing is, these discussions have taken place matter-of-factly. No one was angry, no one was crying (unlike other times that we've been hanging out and discussing the death of the week), nothing. That's how fucking traumatized we are. The perception of Blackness as a commuted death sentence is no longer a mere concept - it is REAL. How the fuck can anyone talk about irrelevant-ass details and nitpick when we're literally preparing to die?
posted by Ashen at 7:56 PM on July 26, 2015 [77 favorites]


(((ashen)))
posted by padraigin at 8:19 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


[folks, we are not going to play the "dig up all possible dirt" game on this one too. Knock it off. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:59 PM on July 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Jesus Christ, Ashen. What can we do to help? (If answering that question doesn't impose a burden on you; totally understand if you're not wanting to answer for any reason.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 PM on July 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was curious, and I'm a data nerd/researcher. So I pulled all of the qualitative data from media and ACLU case reports into a timeline to see what these incidents around the US look like over time.

I haven't updated it yet with the Sandra Bland case.

It was, hands down, the most horrible data project I have ever attempted. And it is not complete, or completely nailed down. TRIGGER WARNING for those who don't wish to see some of the photographs/video of police brutality in one place. But I also wanted to feel--really feel in the gut--some of the overwhelm and despair that my black friends have been expressing this past 2-3 years more openly and try to understand how they experience these reports in the media (seeing the photos, the ages, the video, the spacing of these events in time and geographic location, etc.)

I wish I had a more effective and clean way to present this data, I'm trying to work on it. But for now, this interactive timeline of events is my take on the pacing and themes of these incidents such as the Sandra Bland incident. (Easier to view on a laptop than on a phone, but should also work on mobile.) If you scroll ahead via the timeline on the bottom, you can see how the incidents with enough evidence to trigger the attention of groups like the ACLU get closer and closer together, and how much more video evidence is available after 2010...
posted by jeanmari at 9:39 PM on July 26, 2015 [62 favorites]


Ever been stopped for any driving incident by a cop? How did you react? challenge the cop in any way?

I got pulled over last year. I had pulled out of a bar parking lot late in the evening on a weeknight and a cop pulled alongside me at a stoplight, then deliberately dropped back behind me and then a few blocks later started flashing his lights. I turned on my blinker but continued for about a mile or so, because there wasn't a good place to pull over before that. I rolled my window down only a few inches (I can't remember whether I put my car in park, but I think I left the engine running at least); the cop asked me to roll my window down further. He said he had pulled me over because I had a headlight out (I did -- that evening was the first time I'd noticed it) and that my registration was expired (it was). He asked for my driver's license and insurance card. I gave him my license -- also expired -- and told him I couldn't find my insurance card (I couldn't). I wasn't rude, but I was not what most cops would consider sufficiently deferential through all this, especially here in Texas where "ma'am" and "sir" are definitely a thing. And especially considering how many things I had legitimately done wrong.

The officer took my license back to his car and looked me up, where I assume he saw that I did have a valid license (I hadn't received the renewed one yet), I was insured, and I had no previous record of being pulled over for anything. He came back and gave me a warning -- not even a fix-it ticket, just a warning -- and sent me on my way.

So I was objectively in the wrong on several counts, and I couldn't have blamed him if he had at least made me call someone to come drive me home. Even my friends -- white and upper middle class, mostly -- were shocked that I got off so light. Maybe he was just a nice guy, maybe it was just a good day -- but I can't help but assume my pale, pale skin tipped the balance in my favor. I don't know how anyone can look at my encounter and not see white privilege in action. I mean, yeah, we don't have double-blind testing of the same officer under the same conditions, but I'm willing to say we have a more than sufficient body of evidence to show that black people are pulled over disproportionately, that when they're pulled over they're ticketed disproportionately, and they are arrested/assaulted/harassed disproportionately. I appreciate that I didn't get ticketed or worse last year, but I will be damned if I go along with the suggestion that Sandra Brand was more deserving of being harassed/arrested/threatened than I was, and I will be damned if I stay silent about the fact that I believe my white skin kept me dramatically, unfairly safer.
posted by katemonster at 9:51 PM on July 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


jeanmari: that's extraordinary and so phenomenally depressing. Thanks for sharing.
posted by zachlipton at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2015


That link takes you to the timeline from 1999 to now. The full data set is from July 2, 1964 until now (July 2, 1964 is the day that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and also the day that Beckwith was indicted in the death of Medgar Evers.)

Full data set.

Timeline with full data set.

My apologies if you are experiencing a slow load time on the full data set...it is depressingly large.
posted by jeanmari at 10:06 PM on July 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Jeanmari, wow.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:11 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


So to be frank I don't care if it was suicide or not. I mean it matters - to her family, to how we talk about mental health, etc. But it doesn't matter to taking about moral (if sadly not legal) culpability. She was in police custody. The state held her. She died. They (we!) had a duty to care for her and prevent harm. They even were warned that she might be at greater risk. We (via the State) killed Sandra Bland.

I'm pretty sad and cynical about this general concern lately. I don't expect much will change soon in police policy. But don't let arguments about the minutiae distract from the reality that the State, and therefore we-the-people, killed her.
posted by R343L at 10:41 PM on July 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


Full data set.

Timeline with full data set.


What the hell happened collectively around 1989? There's a really sudden increase in numbers. Is it just a matter of reporting?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:46 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, while white mass murderers are taken into custody without injuries and given adorable little side trips to fucking Burger King or whichever fast food joint it was, I don't care what black victims have or have not done.

If you can't treat somebody selling single cigs, or running, or maybe not indicating, or talking, or moving, or breathing, or holding something, or needing medical attention, or being loud, or playing with toys, or having a pool party, or being with their friends in public, or driving with a broken light, or refusing to get out of a car or house, etcetera fuckingetcetera, with the respect and fair policing you consistently give fucking mass murderers (!!!) who are white, the problem is not with the black victim. No matter what they did. Period. Because, see, white mass murderers are treated better than this.
posted by E. Whitehall at 1:16 AM on July 27, 2015 [25 favorites]


It seems obvious that the cop was looking to hassle Brand. Half the people on the goddamn road don't use their turn signals (and it makes me angry). Hell, I'm actually surprised when I see a police cruiser signal. Apparently signaling is for the little people. I don't understand anyone who thinks Brand was at fault for what happened in any way. For what? Not licking enough boot? That's what it seems like.
posted by Justinian at 1:20 AM on July 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hell, I'm actually surprised when I see a police cruiser signal.

Yup. One of those tiny little things that lets you know police are often full of shit.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:27 AM on July 27, 2015


FFFM, most of the 1989 incidents are from Oakland, CA. If anything, I think there are many more incidents from Oakland that could be in this set.

Oakland Police Department avoids federal takeover, but agrees to unprecedented control over police
posted by jeanmari at 5:53 AM on July 27, 2015


Okay. I was meaning (my bad, it was late) that prior to 89 there would be killings here and there, and suddenly post-89 it's just one after another after another.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:58 AM on July 27, 2015


This whole thing has just been goddamn depressing.

Via naju, I'm also more interested about the legality of not just letting her go on with her day and instead asking her to put out her cigarette. You can see it in the video, he had a choice of just fucking saying "Alright we're done here, here's your documents and the warning/ticket. Goodbye." like I've heard myself in her situation several times. Further escalating and then asking her to step out of her car seems way out of line to me.

Over 10 years ago, a friend and I were on our way down to FL. She was driving my car while I was catching a nap in the passenger seat. Somewhere in Georgia she got pulled over. She was 20+ mph over the speed limit. We never found out why, but he ordered her out of the vehicle to talk to her, and he didn't say anything that he couldn't have said through the window. We didn't think twice about being Asian college-kids in that situation, but early the next morning we got into FL safe and sound. Later that month we drove back down to Georgia and went to court for her ticket and it was reduced to just fines based on her until-then spotless official driving record. Then we went on with our lives, that moment being a mere footnote in our history.

With all of these stories, I can't even imagine my life and my friend's life at this moment if we had been black.
posted by numaner at 9:18 AM on July 27, 2015


Ashen's post is the first post I've read on Metafilter that made me cry. I couldn't hold back the tear that slid down my face as I read it.

I feel the same way. I see that my younger cousins are still active and angry about things on FB and other social media, but I'm starting to feel like every new incident is making me older and grayer, robbing me of vitality.

We've discussed the idea of video recording apps that would automatically upload copies to the cloud so that people stopped by the police could make sure there were video records of the encounter that were not subject to being lost or glitched/edited by the authorities, and I'm on board with that idea. In response to Bland's death and #ifidieinpolicecustory, I've also been wishing there were an app that could, with one touch, blast a message stating I HAVE BEEN DETAINED BY THE POLICE" to a pre-selected group of contacts along with location information, so that if there are no check-ins from you, your loved ones know exactly where to focus their efforts.

I don't imagine it would cut down on the deaths and beatings, but it would save some time and effort on the part of people's friends, family, and attorneys.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Y'know, it seems to me that this is the ideal use-case for Google Glass. (Which is all kinds of fucked up.)

lord_wolf: you can roll your own using IFTTT I suspect.

(a quick google later) Turns out that yes indeed you can. Get the DO app and then set up the appropriate recipe.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lord_wolf: There's also direct-to-ACLU apps available tailored for specific states: https://www.aclu.org/feature/aclu-apps-record-police-conduct.

I have no idea if there's value in using one if you're not in one of the states in question, though.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:29 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


another crazy ass shit about Texas: A defendant prosecuted for resisting arrest cannot use as a defense the fact that the actual arrest was illegal!
via this legal analysis from CNN (I know, right?)
posted by numaner at 9:29 AM on July 27, 2015


(I'm now playing with the DO app, will let you know what I figure out)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:34 AM on July 27, 2015


I didn't want to be a pedant and correct anyone the first few times people called her Brand, but her name is Sandra Bland. In such terrible context, I'm not sure why it bothers me so much to see people getting her name wrong, but it does.
posted by dialetheia at 9:36 AM on July 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yup! You can do it! In the app, create a new recipe--using Twitter, say. DO post to Twitter: help I am {{OccurredAt}} and have been detained by police [hashtags here].

You could double up the recipe--have IFTTT poll your twitter for whatever unique hashtag or something, and have it auto-post the same thing to Facebook, email or SMS selected people, etc.

Then you go to your homescreen, add a DO widget, and select which recipe it triggers. One-tap distress call. (Well, two--one to access your phone, then the tap.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 AM on July 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


You're awesome, fffm!
posted by lord_wolf at 9:49 AM on July 27, 2015


I have no idea if there's value in using one if you're not in one of the states in question, though.

From the ACLU-CA FAQ: Officially, Mobile Justice CA is intended for use by people in California. However, the app does work in other states and will send videos and reports to an ACLU of California office. If you do use Mobile Justice CA outside of California, we will forward your submissions to your local ACLU if there appears to be a civil rights issue.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:51 AM on July 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Aw, thanks. I wish I hadn't had to think of it, you know?

Also that was all Android. No idea about whether iOS functions identically w/r/t location sensing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:52 AM on July 27, 2015


From Drugs.com.
The first paragraph after, What is Keppra?

Important information


Do not stop using Keppra without first talking to your doctor, even if you feel fine. You may have increased seizures if you stop using Keppra suddenly. You may need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely.

You may have thoughts about suicide while taking Keppra. Your doctor will need to check you at regular visits. Do not miss any scheduled appointments.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:39 AM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


What would be really interesting is if a support organization, volunteer group or even a law firm had a mobile account that you could video call if you were ever stopped and didn't feel safe. The receiving end could either be staffed or auto-answer, and start recording automatically. Just leave the call going with the driver's side in the camera's field of view.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:45 AM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Have you looked at it? That was absolutely taken on the floor of her cell. She was dead when they took it. Every cop in that station is an accessory to murder.

Yea, i'm really tired of this meme on my social media feeds.

Her lips are pursed and her nose is flared. Even ignoring the internal consistency problems pointed out above, i'm pretty sure your face wont do that stuff if you're dead?

I'm firmly on the "there's enough horrible stuff about this situation without making up weird shit to make it sound even worse". Stick to things that are blatantly and demonstrably inconsistent. I got real tired real fast of this kind of shit in the Michael Brown situation too.

I held my tongue on this one on social media before, because i couldn't think of a way to respond that didn't sound argumentative, disrespectful, or just out of turn/place... But it really chaps me to see it getting airtime here.

It's the conspiracy-est of conspiracy theories, and people are latching on to it because it sounds super damning. But it doesn't hold up to scrutiny, and makes an awful bad club when even here people are shitposting about her being "troubled" and whatever.
posted by emptythought at 3:21 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm firmly on the "there's enough horrible stuff about this situation without making up weird shit to make it sound even worse".

This is all I've been trying to say. People damage their own real and important points when they go too far and end up in wooland.
posted by Justinian at 3:36 PM on July 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


My wife thinks she got a concussion from the head slam which lead to a brain bleed, and she later died from the brain bleed and a seizure. That gave her time to make those calls before she was found dead. The police found her, and then covered it up. The prisoner in the next cell was bought off.
posted by pomegranate at 4:32 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


That would be obvious in an autopsy.
posted by Justinian at 12:10 PM on July 28, 2015 [3 favorites]




What Happened to Sandra Bland is a really good running list of the inconsistencies in documents and testimonies.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'll try this without editorializing:

Forgot to link the story and video.

This link includes video of Bland in the jail, including while she is having her mugshot taken. She is shown clearly alive and standing against a wall, not dead and lying on the floor.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Justinian, I think you're failing to recognize that trust in the American justice system, especially the police end of it, has degraded to the point where people see nothing especially unbelievable in the proposition that the American police would stage an elaborate fraud to cover up for a murder by a cop.

People have seen so many instance where police blatantly get away with murder, even when video evidence exists showing that it is clearly a murder, people have seen so many instances of police actively falsifying evidence and lying both in court and in their official reports to cover up for crimes by police. We've reached the point where when someone says "I think the police posed a dead body for a mug shot to cover up a murder, then bought off a few prisoners for testimony" and it doesn't seem unbelievable or preposterous.

Black America has doubtless been at that point ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. But the new waves of video evidence have convinced a lot of white America that the black folks were right all along.

Whether or not any particular bit of the murder of Sandra Bland was a fabrication or not is irrelevant to the larger and more disturbing fact of the total, and completely justified, loss of trust in the police.

She never should have been pulled over. Nevermind whether she should have been arrested, or treated better in prison, or any of the other problems with the case, she never should have even been pulled over. The cop who pulled her over did so out of nothing more or less than racism and a desire to victimize a black woman. This is clear from the dashcam video. The whole thing, from start to finish, is the result of the police, first in the person of Encinia then all other police she interacted with, being brutal, evil, and seeking to make her suffer for no better reason than she was black and they felt like abusing her.

So yeah, people are now primed to believe virtually anything. The fact that so many people saw nothing inherently unbelievable in the proposition that Bland was dead in her mugshot isn't an indication of foolishness on the part of those people, but an indication of how bad policing in America is, and how widespread knowledge of that has become.
posted by sotonohito at 6:04 AM on July 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


I am not black and I've lost trust in the police system too, largely because of witnessing these events via video and listening to the experiences of black people who have let me know, loud and clear, that the only thing new and different about these incidents is their capture on video and their dissemination in social media. Our system has perfected its tactics over a century of Jim Crow policing, and before that under state-supported bondage. This behavior isn't new, it's just much harder for the majority culture to deny.

The cops' and jailers' behavior is deeply concerning and warrants investigation. I don't think she was dead in the mugshot, because evidence points the other way, but it's also a point not worth debating. The larger point is that we have not gotten a straight, clear, believable story from the authorities, and that not only allows ambiguities and theories to flourish, it's an element of the problem itself - obfuscation, fostering confusion, dodging and denial are endemic to a racist system. The authorities depend on the trust system of white supremacy to claim credibility from the dominant public audience; critics are right to question that trust system and demand clearer accounts and definite proofs. We should all be demanding clearer accounts. The procedural questions here are staggeringly many. No one should be comfortable with what happened to Sandra Bland. Questions and theories will continue until a full investigation reveals facts that can be trusted regardless of their source.
posted by Miko at 6:18 AM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


She never should have been pulled over.

Which is the central issue and which gets overshadowed when people indulge in unreasonable conspiracies. And it happens every day. The unfortunate fact is that Bland's death is the only reason this got any attention at all. Without her death, this is yet another brick in the wall of police misconduct no different than a hundred others happening every day. This is what everyone should be focusing on (that and probable negligence on the part of her jailers rather than murderous intent).

But I still disagree that the fact that police misconduct is so normalized means that it's no longer unreasonable to accept unreasonable things without evidence. Because you could make the same argument (and people do make the same argument) for many claims we don't consider reasonable. People can (and should) still make reasoned judgments. But barring new events or information that's the last I'll post about that aspect since I doubt anything new is going to come up.

Oh, when I talk about normalizing misconduct; Consider that right now they're talking about an Ohio cop who was just now indicted with murder charges for a traffic stop. And I honestly and truly could not remember which of the many instances of such a thing they were referring to. That's insane.
posted by Justinian at 10:42 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I still disagree that the fact that police misconduct is so normalized means that it's no longer unreasonable to accept unreasonable things without evidence.

I did not say that it was.

But I think harping on this issue is another way of undermining people asking for further transparency. If you believe that the transparency is good and necessary, just join them in demanding it. You don't have to attack their perceptions and speculations to do that, or call them "unreasonable." It's distracting, and it's a demand for people to discuss things on your terms. They don't need to do that in order to join you in demanding transparency.
posted by Miko at 1:24 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Fair enough.

Is the indictment today for a completely new murder we hadn't heard about before? Or is it just me? Because I don't remember hearing much about Samuel DuBose before today.
posted by Justinian at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2015


It's been all over my Facebook wall all week. This one is distinguishable from the many other cases of police misconduct in two ways: 1) campus cop doing a traffic stop, and 2) cop shot the victim in the head.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:39 PM on July 29, 2015


It's been all over my Facebook wall all week. This one is distinguishable from the many other cases of police misconduct in two ways: 1) campus cop doing a traffic stop, and 2) cop shot the victim in the head.

But it is the same in that the cop in his report "was dragged by the car" and this was corroborated by other officers (supposedly) on the scene - including one who said he saw the officer being dragged.

The body cam footage, however, tells a different story - notably that the guy was shot before the car even moved.

So - who you gonna believe ? These honest hardworking familyman hero cops, or your stinkin lyin eyes ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's been all over my Facebook wall all week.

I suppose I was mostly asking rhetorically: When you hear "officer indicted for murder of unarmed black man caught on video" and you have to think "uh... which one?" you know there is a big problem.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


This particular situation kind of strikes me as a lot more complicated than other shootings. From what the officer could reasonably understand based on the interaction it was very likely the driver was drunk. Letting him drive off is a real imminent public safety risk. But, why isn't a taser in his hand instead? Does he have one and went for the gun instead or does the department not provide a taser?

It all happens extremely fast, the first time I watched I couldn't even tell when he fired. Body Cams don't solve every case.

But, here is the thing that I think you can't reasonably disagree with: It is appropriate that the officer was indicted for murder and the system will decide. If it's a good enough court system for everybody he put in cuffs during his time on the job, it's good enough for him too.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2015


Letting him drive off is a real imminent public safety risk.

You know, other countries have [possibly, allegedly] drunk drivers too. I don't know of any other country where "well, he was drunk" is an acceptable excuse for killing someone.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:24 PM on July 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah, as someone who was arrested as a young American dumbass for drunk driving I promise you I'm not in approval of summary execution for American drunk drivers.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:38 PM on July 29, 2015


I have many relatives who drove drunk, got pulled over, yelled at the cops and mocked them, and they all lived to tell the tale.

But they're white.
posted by bgal81 at 4:58 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I wonder is how big a factor in incidents like this is the near total lack of central authority for law enforcement in the USA?

IIRC there are about 16,000 independent law enforcement agencies in the US. Every sheriff in the US has no actual superior, he (they're almost always male) is the highest law enforcement authority in his county and if you've got a problem with him abusing his power you can't go to his boss, because he doesn't have one.

Compare to other nations where local law enforcement is a branch of a central law enforcement authority, so they've got best practices in place, they've got bosses and a whole hierarchy of bureaucracy over them. If you have a problem with the local top cop you can file a complaint with his boss in theory all the way up to the head of the national Justice Department equivalent and if there's a problem local police authority they can simply be fired by the central authority.

In the US, the best you can do is file a lawsuit in a state or federal court, and often it looks like sheriffs ignore those (looking at Joe Arpaio for example) with no real consequences.

I can't help but suspect that many of the problems we find with out of control police are related to the fact that basically the local police have no real boss and if you have a problem with them you have no real way to go about solving the problem.

I realize that the godawful US Federal/State system probably makes any real fix to this impossible, but still I think addressing the fact that each sheriff, each chief of police, is the top of the heap and has no boss, no organization to which they are responsible, might help at least define the problem.
posted by sotonohito at 5:02 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have many relatives who drove drunk, got pulled over, yelled at the cops and mocked them, and they all lived to tell the tale.

But they're white.


Yelling at the cop and mocking him was not the issue here. DuBose was entirely respectful the entire way through. I've never seen someone that politely hand over their front seat liquor bottle to an officer during a traffic stop. But when he was asked to step out of the car he turned on the ignition and tried to drive away, that was where the officer fucked up his reaction and went immediately to a lethal approach.

One thing I wonder is how big a factor in incidents like this is the near total lack of central authority for law enforcement in the USA?

It's a major issue. I was gonna yell "ARPAIO!" in support but you got to him in your comment ahead of me. If you want to give people the right to use lethal force, they need the top level rigorous training for how to make the right choice in a split second. Our current police do not have that. Instead of using federal resources to give them the best training, we give them military toys.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:09 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Heck, at least we could try reducing the number of independent law enforcement agencies to 51 (one for each state, plus the federal) instead of the current quasi-feudal system where each county is the province of a Law Lord who is not accountable to anyone.

Making county law city law enforcement officially part of state law enforcement, making sheriffs and chiefs of police directly accountable to and fireable by state authorities, would at least help shed light on corruption and bring about the possibility of reform and change.

Of course you'd have virtually ever sheriff in the US fighting bitterly against such a move, I'm sure they love the fact that they are accountable to no one.
posted by sotonohito at 5:11 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here in Australia we have one Federal police force, one for each State, and one each in the larger territories. The smaller territories (e.g., Norfolk Island) have different arrangements. It works pretty well.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:56 PM on July 29, 2015


Interesting. DuBose's family hired Mark O'Mara. That's right, George Zimmerman's former lawyer.

According to the article, the family contacted O'Mara for help. That was a good call for a couple of reasons. One, O'Mara is a very good lawyer. We all saw that two years ago. Two, he's a CNN contributor, which means he's media smart and has contacts in the press. I expect he'll do an excellent job of keeping the media narrative focused on the crime against Mr. DuBose and not on the negative parts of Mr. DuBose's character.

Plus, the optics of 'Even the lawyer who got Zimmerman off thinks the cop is guilty!'
posted by riruro at 5:59 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did the police union make their usual announcement defending the officer? All I read was the prosecutor being very unequivocal. "This was murder." That the officer and a second officer had matching lies about what happened doesn't help.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:44 AM on July 30, 2015


He's a university cop, so I don't know that he's represented by a conventional police union.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:47 AM on July 30, 2015


I'm not sure who is particular union is, but the national spokes-head from the Fraternal Order of Police was on NPR this morning basically saying that this and indictment of the 6 officers who killed Freddie Gray meant that every thing was against the police now.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:57 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase David Simon, the policeman on a patrol beat is the last perfect tyranny in America.

.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:53 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]




“Police Shootings Won't Stop Unless We Also Stop Shaking Down Black People,” Jack Hitt, Mother Jones, September/October 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 4:55 PM on July 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


« Older Getting to the next meetup   |   You are the Cogmind Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments