By: Kidman J. Williams
The screams over the internet, the outcries of injustice and the all out anger over police officers who are blatantly violating the rights of the people to feel secure and safe when approached by one of these so called peace-officers has grown in the past 10 years and has become staggering in the past couple of years. Sandra Bland is one of many of these poor souls whose rights have been disregarded. Did you note that I didn’t say Black, White or Mexican? That’s because this is a public problem in the U.S.
Many people around the country have been focused on whether Sandra killed herself in a depressive state or if one of the guards had abused her and killed her while in jail with the whole police force covering up the truth. Some people are even saying that she was D.O.A. at the hands of a Texas Trooper who looked like he got beat on a lot in the back of the high school gym by a small town football hero named Hoss Jenkins. Just to please some of you with your tin foil hats, and I haven’t forgotten you with your turtle shell helmet, I am going to take a stab at a conspiracy theory. But I am going to get to the root of this whole issue also. Sandra’s story deserves justice, it deserves to be solved and most of all we as a country deserve a police force that is actually looking out for us and not just looking at their funding.
The Fix is in
If I were to take a wild stab at this torrid story like every other dime store journalist, I would have to say this was an accidental murder. Bland was an epileptic! If Trooper Encinia slammed her head as hard as Sandra claimed when she said she couldn’t hear, it could have triggered an epileptic seizure while she was in the cell. Epilepsy could also be a contributor to suicidal thoughts and choking.
When the nameless guard saw Sandra lying in her cell motionless he left to go get the higher ups. He brought his superior in with Trooper Encinia, and being smart in the field they set up a grotesque scene of a desperate woman with a white trash bag secured around her fragile neck.
This would absolve them of any wrong doing, as long as there wasn’t a good autopsy done by an outside party that couldn’t be bought off by tearing up all the parking tickets on the doctor’s brand new Corvette that he parked illegally all the time to be sure no one could accidently scratch it. All the doctor would have to do is make the claim of asphyxiation and the officers would make sure that it looked right.
That sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
The Real Problem
On July 10th we saw a young woman getting pulled over for what seemed to be a routine traffic stop for failing to use her signal. In the full video we see Sandra Bland’s car take a right turn without a signal on. She didn’t even bother making a complete stop at the sign. We have all seen it in our rearview mirror, cherries and blueberries go on as the police officer makes a quick hard u-turn. You know the drill. You know those lights are for you. Your heartbeat raises and you get that annoying amount of sweat in your palm. Texas Trooper, Brian Encinia reacted no different in this situation. You see in the video that when Encinia approached the vehicle he was actually very calm, one would even say a nice guy: as nice as any officer can seem when pulling you over for a trivial traffic violation. This was the first inconsistency.
When Trooper Encinia approached the vehicle he said, “Hello ma’am, Texas highway patrol. The reason for the stop is you failed to signal a lane change.”
As I stated before, you can see that the Trooper was coming after her before the illegal lane change in question. Why didn’t Encinia just say that? It is probably because he didn’t actually see her do that in the first place. He just saw a young black woman passing by and decided to go after her.
When Brian Encinia approached Bland’s vehicle again he asks, “Are you OK?”
Sandra in a short annoyed tone answered him, “I’m waiting on you! You, you, this is your job. I’m waiting on you, what do you want me to do?”
Brian cuts her off, “You seem very irritated?”
“I am, I really am. I feel like I am stopped, what am I getting ticket for, I be getting out of your way. You were speeding up and tailing me, so I moved over and you stopped me. So, yeah, I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so give me the ticket.”
Trooper Encinia shortly answered with a short, “Are you done?”
“You asked me what was wrong and I told you. So now I’m done, yeah.”
Then the trooper decides to pull a power play by asking her to put out her cigarette. Brian Encinia asks her, he didn’t tell her! He asks, “Do you mind putting out your cigarette please? If you don’t mind?”
I’m pretty sure that is not an order. That is someone asking another person to put out a cigarette. Sandra then asks the Trooper, “I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?”
His whole attitude changes from here. Trooper Encinia gets very forceful. “Well, you can step on out now.”
The exchange between the two of them goes very ugly. After many times of being asked why she is being apprehended and the cop not answering, a small struggle ensued inside the car as the trooper tried to pull her out, screaming at her holding a tazer. When he finally did answer her about why he said that, she wasn’t compliant.
Both parties involved seemed to get out of control. While they were off camera Bland continued to call the officer a pussy. Not really the smartest move in the world. This still didn’t give Trooper Encinia the right to pull her out of her car and threaten to “light her up” in the first place.
Off camera you hear her talk about how the trooper slammed her head and her ears were ringing. This act could be very dangerous for an epileptic. Officer Brian Encinia blew it off. After Bland told him about her epilepsy and how he slammed her head, the trooper answered with a quick, “Good!” Bland herself even continued yelling about how all this was for a traffic signal. She knew she blew the stop sign, but Encinia didn’t say that it was for a signal. It was, according to the Texas trooper, for an illegal lane change when he was already behind her.
Trooper Encinia went off to go yell at a patron for recording with his phone. The unfortunate part of the extra video is that it started recording after the slam to the ground. That means that nothing of any real worth was on the video as far as evidence goes.
There is no question that Bland reacted badly, but that wasn’t until after she was really pushed to that level. Anybody, if pushed, will have just about the same kind of reaction when being unjustly pushed around.
When I asked Oscar nominated documentarian Matthew Cooke about the incident he said, “Officers, ‘lawful’ (his quote marks) orders in this case is that constitutionally the police officer can order her out of the vehicle for his own safety. It makes no fucking sense at all! So, any reasonable person who doesn’t know the civil codes and law books is not going to see any reason for it either. So, I get it! The truth is that the officer is constitutionally allowed to ask you and any other occupants out of the vehicle for purposes of officer safety. “
Matthew continued, “Now, we know in a lot of cases of police abuse. That’s the first thing out of their (officers) mouths, I feared for my safety. That’s why they had to shoot the 5 year old 12 times in the back. That’s their go to! If you find yourself in that situation, I get it, this guy is literally acting like we rolled back the clock 200 years after the Texas Constitution officially legalized slavery and he is acting as though she is supposed to behave like he’s the slave master. Put out your cigarette. Yes sir. Do a fucking dance on one leg. Yes sir. I mean, the guy’s attitude is out-fucking-rageous! But you have to treat an interaction with a law enforcement officer today, no matter what your color is, like you’re dealing with a wild animal! You be very still, you move very slowly, if the wild animal needs your identification you provide it.”
He went on to talk to me about being able to exercise your rights. For now, we still do have those rights, but what Cooke went on to say is that, “There are a few things you can do to protect yourself like not answering any questions. You can still do that, but you want to say it politely. Like, look officer, I respect that you are doing your job and I appreciate that. I am also going to exercise my constitutional rights which I also appreciate so I’m going to use my 5th Amendment right to remain silent. I just believe in that right, I have nothing to hide. I just believe in that right.”
I decided to hit him with an off color question and asked, “So essentially, calling the cop a pussy a bunch of times wasn’t the way to go?”
“No however, having said that, she was right he was one! Whether he was a racist misogynistic piece of shit asshole or just a piece of shit asshole she was right. You don’t want to be right you want to be happy. The fact that there she is with a $5000 bond trapped in jail isn’t worth it. She could have used that five grand to go back and sue him.”
“Look, we’re in a bad way. The only thing that is good about cases like this is that it is shining a light on a massive, massive problem that we have which is the entire state of the criminal justice system in the U.S.”
I lit my cigarette while I kind of hung my head. I pulled the square from my mouth and let out the smoke to ask Matthew, “You definitely have a different perspective on this. Do you think that she was right in her actions?”
“Look, I think she was a 100% right! I understand where she was coming from and as a black woman I can’t even imagine what her experience has been with law enforcement or in life in general in the United States.”
“The math is complicated for people when they haven’t been acquainted with it. The math is such that, you are much more likely as a minority to be killed by a police officer than you are if you are white, however more whites are numerically killed by officers a year. The way that math works is because black people only make up about 12 to 13 percent of the national population. So, even though numerically more white people are killed, there are way more white people. If white people make up 60-something percent of the population and 500 of them are killed by officers a year it is much more spread out. White America is just not as aware.”
Cooke’s answers were well thought out and intelligent, but I still couldn’t help feel that cops shouldn’t be able to escalate the situations the way they do. Trooper Encinia definitely overstepped his bounds, but according to the laws in the United States he really didn’t.
It is pretty important to note that an Amnesty International study on rights discovered that not one single state in this Union has a “Use of Force Law” that meets basic international human rights standards. There isn’t one state, zero, nadda, zilch! This is a sad state of affairs. This kind of thing allows officers to pretty much get away with murder, pun intended.
When we look at police now, the public seems to have more contempt for them than ever in history. It feels like thousands of clones of the Sheriff of Nottingham coming after millions of people who are looking for their Robin Hood who may never come.
I decided to take it to the streets. I kept wondering what people really thought about this case. Was it clean, was there foul play in the eyes of the average citizens, do people really think that this cop was in the right, or was Sandra too mouthy and shrewd to the cop? These are the questions I took to the local corner store.
It seemed to me that most people feel like Sandra Bland was murdered in a devious way, even with the evidence given by the booking sheet on page 14 where it says Bland had suicidal thoughts. In 2014 Bland lost a child and tried to kill herself with a large dose of pills.
This brings more questions up. Number 1, if the authorities knew this, why was she not put on suicide watch? Why was there a garbage can with the infamous white garbage bag in her cell in the first place? I know for a fact that police (especially police who are supposedly up on the rules and regulations) take your shoe laces, belts and any other type of thing that you can harm yourself and others with.
This whole situation is riddled in wrongdoing. There was the fact that Sandra engaged the officer with an attitude from the very beginning of the encounter. There was a problem from the very beginning when Trooper Brian Encinia went after the young lady presumably because she was young and black and in Texas. He proved it when we saw Bland not stop for the stop sign and not using her turn signal. He pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change while he was tailgating her.
As much as we don’t like being subservient to people who are obviously abusing their powers, it is just a better idea to fight within the confines of the system. I hate to say it myself! When I see someone abusing peoples’ rights, especially mine, I immediately want to tell them where to stick it! It all comes back to the idea of a wild lion. If you see an already agitated lion staring you down, do you stare it down and confront it. Or do you stay still and back away slowly to make sure the lion knows that you aren’t a threat?
Is it right that we have to feel this way about law enforcement that is supposed to serve and protect us as a society? Obviously not, but these are the cards we were dealt and we have to keep playing through until we can get into a position to win that hand. Remember, this isn’t white and black. This is an epidemic that everyone has to deal with and we can’t do anything from behind bars. Stay smart and safe.
My heart goes out to Sandra Bland’s family and friends.
For information on how to deal with an aggressive officer watch Oscar nominated Matthew Cooke’s video. Thank you to Matthew Cooke for allowing me to post this very helpful video for all of you.