A nearly hourlong police cruiser dashcam video released by the Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday begins with Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia conducting what looks to be a routine traffic stop of a vehicle driven by 28-year-old Sandra Bland.
Encinia cites Bland for failing to signal a lane change, asks for her license and registration and walks back to his cruiser. Encinia returns about five minutes later with a citation -- which he later reveals to be a written warning. Encinia notes Bland's apparent irritation, which prompts Bland to explain that she is indeed frustrated because she feels she was unfairly pulled over.
Encinia then asks her to put out her cigarette. When Bland declines his request, the encounter quickly spirals out of control. Encinia orders Bland to exit the vehicle, eventually drawing his Taser and telling her, "I will light you up." The July 10 incident ends with Encinia placing Bland under arrest shortly after throwing her to the ground. At some point in the tussle, she allegedly kicked Encinia -- an "assault," he later claims in the video. Three days later, Bland was found dead at the Waller County jail, where authorities say she hanged herself. Her family contends that she was killed by someone in the jail.
Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw said the department "has been working closely" with Bland's family during an investigation into the incident. "When the Texas Rangers and FBI investigation is complete, it will be turned over for review by the District Attorney, who has indicated it will also be brought before a grand jury,” McCraw said in a statement when the video was released.
The Internet is buzzing with explanations about how, exactly, this situation got out of hand. Was it Bland's fault, or Encinia's -- or do they both share in the blame? Should Bland just have put out the cigarette? (She wasn't required to.) Could Encinia have done more to de-escalate and disengage? Was he right to order Bland out of the car after her perceived defiance? (The order was legal, technically speaking -- Pennsylvania v. Mimms, a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision, says it's reasonable and not a violation of the Fourth Amendment for an officer to order a motorist to exit their vehicle following a traffic stop and conduct a pat-down to check for weapons.) But was the order to exit the car simply an unnecessary move to punish this woman for bruising his ego?
It all depends on who you ask. Many critics have come down harshly on Encinia for what they see as a deliberate effort to inflame a completely avoidable conflict. Among law enforcement officers and their supporters, however, the tone is somewhat different. But a number of comments culled from online forums suggest that even in that community, the issue is not one-sided.
Of course, there's no way to verify the identity of the people posting in these forums, but most claim to be police officers. Reddit's ProtectAndServe is a thread dedicated to the law enforcement community. PoliceOne and Officer have varying identity requirements for law enforcement officers during account registration, but the public can also view and participate in some threads. Thee Rant says it's a forum where only verified police officers can post.
She became a 'radical cop hater.'
She was being issued a simple warning citation and would have been on her way if she simply accepted it and moved on with her life with no fees or fines.
Sandra Bland began to disrespect the officer and he ordered her out of the vehicle and the roadside wanna-be attorney became radical cop hater with chip on her shoulder.
She was an 'emotionally disturbed person.'
If she only complied and showed a little respect to the LEO [law enforcement officer] performing his duty, she would be on her way with a warning citation. Acted like an EDP [emotionally disturbed person] on the scene and then takes her own life in the holding cell. I guess she had some serious issues. God bless the Trooper and your family though this difficult time.
She was 'too stressed.'
It wasn't a citation, it was a warning, and, well, he was doing interdiction. Behaviorally, why did she light up a cigarette? Was she an anti-police advocate, was she under duress from a criminal, or was she herself doing something criminal? There was no way for him to know.
My thought process:
"This woman is too stressed. Why does she make it a strain for him to ask her simple, concerned questions?"
"Maybe she is committing a crime or is a victim of a crime. He should remove her from her area of control to better assess her condition and situation from an area of his control."
*Here, I would explain the situation better to her than the officer in our video, but...
"Oh, she kicked him? She's going to jail immediately."
He'll be 'crucified.'
This Trooper will be crucified . Its just not worth doing all this cause she had a cigarette and your about to hand her a warning ticket.
I am not saying he caused this but he will be painted as a racist trooper who dragged her out of her car for contempt of Cop and caused her to kill herself. People will scream that she was not a threat to him and the uncaring cops and jail deputies "killed" her.
He 'took it to the next level.'
Unless I heard wrong, she was threatened with arrest because she refused to get out of the car. Pennsylvania v Mimms says that I can legally order anyone who is pulled over for a traffic violation to step out of the car. There's no requirement to have probable cause, or reasonable suspicion, or any specific reason whatsoever, beyond the original reason for the stop. If I tell somebody to get out of the car and they refuse, that's grounds for an arrest.
That being said, it looks to me like he took it to the next level (ordering her out of the car) because she didn't do what he told her to do and put the cigarette out. If that's the case, I'm not really on board with it. If you've got the ticket, warning, whatever already written, get her to sign it and go on. It's not worth turning a simple traffic stop into a major ordeal just because somebody wouldn't put a cigarette out.
He should have 'issued a warning' and 'moved on.'
Dude, issue the f****n warning and move on. It's NOT WORTH IT. Prepare for the next shit storm over THIS????? Our jobs aren't hard enough these days already....we're yankin females out of vehicles cause our ego got hurt cause she wouldn't tremble and put out the stupid cigarette????? Let's pose this question- suppose she had stepped out when he asked her to....THEN WHAT??? You were gonna scold her about the cigarette??? What was his plan?? What was going to be the purpose of pulling her out?
My opinion probably won't be popular on here but oh well. I'm as PRO-US Pro Police as anyone but I can recognize when we're being dumb. This was dumb. Even tho the death/suicide wasn't his fault-- The public perception and backlash is NOT worth it.
He had no justification for 'extending the detention.'
Once he made the decision to issue a warning and issued said warning, there is no further justification for extending the detention. I would imagine he faces an uphill battle on this one. Unless he tries to argue he decided last minute to make the on-site arrest for the original traffic violation. Tough sell.
There's 'zero evidence police treated her unfairly.'
This story is the latest that "demands" a federal investigation, even though all evidence right now points to suicide. There's zero evidence that police treated her unfairly at all. She was initially pulled over for an unsafe lane change. She assaulted police then that is why she was arrested.
I feel horrible for her family and have no issue with them wanting answers. My beef is with the media who made this a national story absent any evidence of foul play. If and when evidence exists, then it's a story. But right now, it appears as though the police had a legal right to arrest her, that she resisted arrest, that she was depressed, that being in a cell added to her depression and that sadly, she took her own life.
Read more on Sandra Bland at the links below: