Sandra Bland case calls for major police reform
The traumatic events following the July 10 arrest of Sandra Bland, who was pulled over by a cop for failure to signal and found dead in her jail cell three days later, have spiraled into more protests and police backlash nationwide.
In video footage taken by Texas police officer Brian Encinia’s dashcam, Bland is seen being physically forced out of her car. Later in the video, out of the camera’s view, Bland and Encinia can be heard fighting as Bland screams “You’re about to break my wrist … stop!”
Due to inconsistencies in evidence and Bland’s activism in her community, Bland’s family is refuting the suicidal claims of deputies who found her hanging in her jail cell. In a video published by USA Today, Bland filmed herself crying while praising God for saving her life after surviving a severe car accident with a motorcyclist in April.
From watching Bland’s videos and from the essence of her arrest, I agree that Bland’s mysterious death doesn’t correlate with suicide but I can’t completely dismiss claims as I have no concrete evidence.
Moreover, the nature of Bland’s death has stung the open wound of an age-old fight within the black community. Because, mirroring the woes of similar recent cases, such as those involving Eric Garner, Micheal Brown and Freddie Gray, this case has yet again led to the unexplained demise of a black person.
Whether these victims are perceived as criminals or law-abiding, harmless citizens, a major disparity continues to trend along with the #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName hashtags of social media — the discrepancy between police enforcement and minorities.
In an article published by the Los Angeles Times, police experts weighed in on the case.
In the article, former Florida police officer and law professor Seth Stoughton acknowledged that there are no laws enforcing Encinia’s demand for Bland to put out her cigarette. But he also noted that a police officer does have the right to legally demand someone to step out of his or her car. According to the article, Stoughton addressed whether Encinia used his police authority rightfully by attempting to yank the young female out of her car for not abiding by his demand.
This becomes hard to determine as officers, at times, must choose to follow their authority versus their morality. And if a citizen happens to be stereotyped or profiled as a threat, they may opt to exercise their authority.
With a father who has worked as a deputy for more than 20 years, I’m not suggesting that officers suddenly abandon their protective dogma. But if the mantra of officers is to protect and serve, then all citizens should be able to rely on this premise.
Since Bland’s death, people have questioned the police standards of Prairie View, Texas, yet their sentiments only add to the ripple effects from a past of murky racial tensions between minorities and law enforcement in America.
With this in mind, there should be some form of accountability for officers, despite their badges of privilege. And our country must stand together for this cause, as it would protect lives and mend the emaciated unity between citizens.
I hope the voices of this community and those like Bland will be heard. And there should be a response to soothe their unjust wounds, instead of an attempt to mute their crucial outcry. If not, then the likes of Bland will continue to take on the face of the familiar.
As Bland’s last words will continue to resonate with those following her case, a similar thought runs through my mind: I don’t understand how simply being black led to all of this.
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com