A few weeks back, Sandra Bland, a Chicago civil rights activist, was driving through Waller County Texas, when she was detained by a local cop after having failed to signal a turn before changing lanes. (It turns out that she was just trying to get out of the cop’s way, as he was tailgating her.)
When she was pulled over the following happened:
- The cop initially gave her a warning after running her plates
- He then wanted to know why she was irritated.
- He then demanded that she put out her cigarette.
- When she said she had a right to smoke in her own car, he demanded that she get out of the car.
- When she said that she didn’t have to get out of her car, he threatened to tase her.
- When she finally got out, and demanded to know why she was being detained, he arrested her for resisting arrest.
- The encounter took an extraordinary 52 minutes.
- Three days later she was found hanging in her cell.
- When the police department finally released the dash cam, it appeared to have been doctored.
This whole thing was Kafaesque.
And it never would have happened to me, because I am a middle-aged white man.
Now the police department is claiming her death was consistent with a suicide.
The apologist for the cops will talk about how they have a tough job and are running on adrenalin when they go up to a car, never knowing what they’re going to be facing.
Yes, cops have jobs that are tough. Sometimes. Cops have a lot of physical courage and sometimes face real danger, for which they should be lauded.
And they have been. Plenty of times. Over and over again.
But not here.
Not this cop, who was just looking to pick a fight with a black woman driving through his county with an out-of-state license plate. And the end result is that she was dead three days later. Not this cap, who — in a textbook example of cognitive dissonance — could be heard rearranging his story when he was describing the encounter to his sergeant, making himself believe that he had acted appropriately.
We already know he won’t get indicted, because even though it’s well known that a district attorney can “indict a ham sandwich,” the exception to that rule is cops. Who, it appears, can’t be indicted at all.
I hope this guy at least loses his job and that the county is sued up for millions of dollars. But it won’t be enough.
As human beings, we should all be outraged. We should be outraged that this woman, who was completely within her rights, couldn’t drive through Texas without getting killed.
(Listen to a shorter discussion of this incident from the “On Point” show, above)