Sandra Bland

Amber Doyle, Business Manager

Coast to coast, African-Americans are tweeting instructions on what to do if they are murdered in the hands of the ones who are supposed to be protecting us.  Even trending #IfIDieInPoliceCustody.  Every tweet seems to focus around one theme: Being gripped by fear when stopped by the police.  Misuse of police authority can have deadly consequences.  

The greatest lie that our culture has today is the notion that dash cameras on police cruisers and body cameras on police officers are tools of justice.  Video evidence, no matter the source, is able to document injustice.  However, this rarely keeps African-Americans safe or prevent further injustices.  In Ta-Nehisi Coates memoir “Between the World and Me” he writes, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body- it is heritage.”

Sandra Bland should not be dead.  According to police reports, Bland died in a Waller County, Texas Jail by committing suicide.  Her family disputes that Bland could have taken her own life.  Though an official murder investigation in process, under FBI supervision, says there is no present evidence to disprove the suicide narrative.  

It is plain to see that Bland should not have died in jail because, she never should have been in that cell to begin with.  A dashcam video the Texas Department of Public Safety released shows that the encounter that led to her arrest and charging spiraled out of control, largely part because of the arresting officer’s confrontational behavior.  

Officer Brian Encinia pulled Bland over after failing to signal a lane change.  Instead of handing Bland a warning or a ticket and moving on, Encinia asked her to extinguish her cigarette.  Bland refused.  The officer then ordered her to exit her car. The command was legal.  But what happened next was not.  Encinia forcibly removed her from her car.  

The nation must address the foundation of this crisis.  If it were not already obvious and understood, police officers must assume that they are being recorded at all times.  The awareness should underline that they have no option but to be calm and careful, no matter how insulted they feel.  At police academies, they learn how to evaluate situations where force could be an option and when it is illegal.  By the time officers are patrol-ready, they know how to use their firearms, batons, and stun guns.

The police are trusted with the power to use force on the public.  That trust requires restraint and judgment.  It will be hard for African-Americans to ever trust the police again and more important not feel threatened or like they are about to take their last breath whenever they are stopped or pulled over.  There is no reason why Bland should not have collected her traffic warning and moved on, annoyed, but alive.