Why was Sandra Bland kept in jail, and what does it say about us?
It was unbelievable to watch the footage where trooper Encinia pulls Bland out of a car for refusing to put a cigarette. He was only citing her for failing to use a signal. Instead of giving ticket, which frankly was undeserved, he insisted on letting Bland know that he was in charge. He yelled at her, “I will light you up!” So when she didn’t follow his orders, he pulled and dragged her out of her car and threw her to the ground, and to then he arresting her for resisting arrest/assaulting an officer with the original offense was failing to signal.
Too see the video, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/07/20/us/sandra-bland-arrest-death-videos-maps.html
These actions are unbelievable but despite Bland’s rudeness, why is someone who is sworn to protect and serve escalate the situation by becoming violent? Is it to prove a point? Is it to prove that if one isn’t compliant with the police that the police will physically hurt you? Is it another way of telling our African-Americans that you better be careful even if you are a college graduate with no record because we are in charge? Our history of racial inequality is aggravated when the police fail to act professionally towards people of color.
What is even worse is that the harms done by a single trooper are multiplied by a thousand by a criminal justice system that kept Bland in jail. This was a woman who was moving to Texas to work at Prarie View A&M University. Why was bail set at $5,000 forcing her to stay in jail? Was there a real concern that she was a risk to the community and that she would flee? South County Judge Trey Duhon told reporters that Bland was treated fairly, but is that really the case? How many times do police stop and arrest African-Americans in comparison to other populations? I have read several reports by Attorney Generals and the Department of Justice that highlight that police stop African-Americans at disproportional rates.
And if African-Americans are disproportionally arrested, then it isn’t fair to state that bail was set because that’s what we do so on all cases. She should have been released. Why didn’t a judge, who was selected to be fair, impartial and most importantly just, release her so she could fight her case? If that had that happened, she would still be alive.
Everyone has focused on the trooper’s actions, and yes, we should examine what he did, but we should also examine how bail is used to incarcerate and punish people for no apparent reason. We should consider how bail is being used to lock up the poor, especially our African-American population. See John Oliver’s comments on this point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS5mwymTIJU