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Was Sandra Bland's Arrest Justified?

Sandra Bland was arrested for a minor traffic violation, and later committed suicide in jail. Many are questioning whether she belonged in jail in the first place. Was her arrest justified?

75% of writers and pundits say no
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Was Sandra Bland's Arrest Justified?  

Writers and pundits who say or about the topic, "Was Sandra Bland's Arrest Justified?"
last 24 hours | chicagotribune
The deeper meaning in the Sandra Bland arrest video - Chicago Tribune

"...Yet as a society, we're reflexively loath to question police, even when it would make them better, and all of us, including them, safer. Even when we're screaming with our questions.In the Texas video, Encinia is not being threatened; he's just acting out.Even Jenkins, as someone who studies police and talks about the hard realities they face, says he feels deflated. You see Bland reacting to how she's being treated, he says. And "I'm also sensing it now as a person who is tired of seeing these videos of police acting in a way that is opposite of what we'd expect of them."..." see full article

1206 days ago | salon
Texas trooper had no right to ask Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette ... - Salon

"...Eric Guster, a civil rights attorney in Birmingham, Ala., says officers can ask drivers to comply with reasonable commands. For example, a cop can ask a driver to turn off the ignition to his or her vehicle because not doing so can endanger the officer's safety. If a car has a lot of people in it, that officer can ask everyone to raise their hands so he or she can see them. The officer can also ask someone to turn on his or her car lights if the inside of the vehicle is dark.After reviewing the video, Guster says Officer Encinia's request was far from reasonable. I just don't think so, he told AlterNet. He wrote the ticket already. She said, Give me the ticket.' The officer had no reason to tell her anything else but give her the ticket and walk away. There can be a thin line about what is a legal command, but under these circumstances, I just don't see what the officer did was reasonable. The Houston Chronicle published a report outlining Texas-specific rights officers have to stop a driver and when it is legal for the officer to ask passengers to exit the vehicle. None of the scenarios cited in the report suggest any wrongdoing on Bland's part...." see full article

1208 days ago | washingtonpost
Attorney General Lynch: Sandra Bland's death highlights black Americans ... - Washington Post (blog)

"...Bland's death, which authorities say was a suicide, came after she was arrested during a traffic stop and held in custody for three days. Video of the traffic stop, released last week, shows that a Texas trooper threatened Bland with a Taser when he ordered her out of her vehicle on July 10.The 28-year old African American woman was stopped for failing to signal while changing lanes, but the stop turned confrontational when the officer, Brian Encinia, ordered her to put out her cigarette.When Bland questioned why she had to put out her cigarette, Encinia ordered her out of the vehicle. When she refused to comply, the situation escalated.Encinia opened the driver's door and attempted to remove Bland from the vehicle...." see full article

1208 days ago | slate
Sandra Bland Committed "Contempt of Cop," But That's Not Against the Law

"...Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern asserted Wednesday that while Encinia was likely within his rights to order Bland to put out the cigarette and get out of her car, taking such aggressive physical action against her when she refused to do so constituted an excessive use of force. And it seems clear from the video that Encinia's actions, not to mention his initial verbal escalation of the situation, happened in large part because he took offense at what he perceived as Bland's disrespectful attitude what is known in legal circles as "contempt of cop" rather than any belief that she presented an imminent threat to anyone's safety.In 2010, Christy Lopez, the Department of Justice official who led the federal investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri police department after Michael Brown's death, wrote a paper on the subject of "contempt of cop" arrests. (Lopez's Ferguson investigation found that officers in Ferguson had a habit of making unjustified and abusive arrests.) Lopez opens her report by noting that disagreeing with, criticizing, or otherwise being verbally difficult with a police officer is behavior protected by the First Amendement. Legally, you should be able to say anything you want to an officer, or even make an obscene gesture toward the police, without fearing punishment. Practically, though, Lopez writes, "there is abundant evidence that police overuse disorderly conduct and similar statutes to arrest people who 'disrespect' them or express disagreement with their actions."..." see full article

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1210 days ago | bostonglobe
In video of Texas arrest, a test of wills is on full display
"...This is in flagrant contradiction of everything we've just witnessed; it is, quite simply, a lie. At no time did Encinia attempt to de-escalate the situation with Bland. On the contrary, he pushed it forward until it exploded until he exploded.But he seems to believe it. It sounds good, true, strong. He has convinced himself he's a decent guy. That he did the right thing. At 34:19 on the tape, having successfully relieved himself of any culpability, Trooper Brian Encinia takes a moment to ponder what just happened and why.  Y'know, over a simple traffic stop, he tells his sergeant. I don't get it. I really don't. No, sir, you don't. You don't get it at all. That is precisely the point. And it's the very least we can say about this appalling and outrageous tragedy of power and race...." see full article

1210 days ago | washingtonpost
A trooper arrested Sandra Bland after she refused to put out a cigarette. Was it legal?

"...When it comes to a law enforcement officer ordering a person out of a vehicle during a traffic stop, courts have given the officers a lot of discretion under the premise of officer safety, Frasier said.But in this instance, Frasier said, that would be a difficult case to make. You want to give the benefit of the doubt to the officer, she said of Encinia, but I'm not sure, other than the fact that [Bland] wouldn't put out her cigarette, what would be perceived as a safety issue. Rebecca Robertson, legal policy director of ACLU of Texas, said officers have some latitude to ask people to stop certain activities if they interfere with their ability to carry out law enforcement duties. Upon review of the video, though, Robertson said she saw nothing to suggest that this falls into this category. ..." see full article

1210 days ago | reason
Sandra Bland's Arrest and the Expectation of Meek Subservience
"...Some of the reaction to my post about Sandra Bland's arrest leads me to believe I was not sufficiently explicit in criticizing Texas Trooper Brian Encinia's actions. It seems to me he had no legitimate reason to order Bland out of her car after stopping her for a minor traffic violation (changing lanes without signaling), let alone to arrest her for failing to obey that unjustified command. Judging from the dashcam video of the traffic stop, his actions were motivated by anger at Bland's insufficiently submissive attitude in particular, her insistence that she had a right to smoke a cigarette in her own car, even if he preferred that she put it out. The escalation that ensued which was driven, as I said, by Encinia's need "to assert his authority for its own sake" was completely unnecessary and unprofessional.But that does not necessarily mean it was illegal. The Supreme Court has said police do not need any special reason to order drivers out of their cars during routine traffic stops. The rationale for that rule, which reflects the Court's overly solicitious attitude toward police, is officer safety, but it does not require a case-specific inquiry as to whether a particular officer during a particular stop actually faced a potential threat that justified his order. So even if Encinia had no reasonable safety concerns regarding Bland, it looks like his order was constitutional, according to the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fourth Amendment...." see full article

1210 days ago | thehill
Sandra Bland should have never been arrested - The Hill (blog)

"...Sandra Bland was frivolously arrested July 10 over a cigarette after getting stopped for allegedly failing to signal, a traffic violation only reprimanded in the most rural areas where police officers fill their downtime with traffic enforcement. Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia did nothing to deescalate the situation, with threats such as "I will light you up!" and refusing to give a reason for the arrest other than resisting arrest. This calls into question the 1997 Supreme Court ruling that police may order passengers out of cars they stop for routine traffic violations even in the absence of any reason to suspect that the passenger has committed a crime or presents a threat to the officer's safety a stark contradiction to the Fourth Amendment right to be free against unreasonable search and seizure.Scenes like this, all too common across the United States, are indicative of local police departments taking a punitive approach to law enforcement when it comes to patrolling African-American communities, as opposed to the sense of stewardship afforded to predominantly white neighborhoods. African-Americans are treated as criminals and that climate is what allows excessive force and police brutality to occur without reprimand. Police need to be more representative of the people that live in the communities they patrol, they need better training, and those that demonstrate excessive force or brutality toward the people they serve must be remediated of abusing their authoritative power with the attitude that it is infallible. Those children in handcuffs are orphans of an oppressive, racist system that doesn't care about them at all. This is why backlash to any criticism of police, to "respect the law" and "support our police," is so obscene. The police are meant to serve the public, not be its master or torturer...." see full article

1210 days ago | latimes
Texas trooper who arrest Sandra Bland abused his authority - LA Times - Los ... - Los Angeles Times
"...Most of the focus of this case is on Bland's apparent suicide, when the real issue is the validity of the arrest. I am a retired death penalty appellate prosecutor. Had this woman just come from committing either the Aurora, Colo., South Carolina or Tennessee shootings, any evidence recovered from her would have been absolutely inadmissible because there was no probable cause for the police officer to do anything but write her a traffic ticket. No police officer can either demand someone get out of the car or arrest them for refusing to put out a cigarette or for talking back during a traffic stop. Contempt of cop does not constitute probable cause even to search, let alone arrest...." see full article

1210 days ago | slate
The Sandra Bland Video Proves the Police Are to Blame for Her Arrest and Death - Slate Magazine

"...Either way, the police bear moral responsibility for Bland's death. Trooper Encinia chose to pull her over for a minor infraction. He chose to escalate the situation, and he chose to go from writing a ticket to making an arrest.Yes, Bland could have been less irritated, and she could have obeyed the command to put out her cigarette. But it's not illegal to be frustrated with the police, and it's not a crime to smoke. Moreover, it's an officer's job to remain calm and resolve situations without additional conflict. It's not an imposition to expect as much from men and women entrusted with the right to detain and to use lethal force.Think of it this way: If you are inclined to blame Bland for her arrest (and by extension her death), then you're sanctioning an America where police command total deference, where you have to obey regardless of what you've done or what's the law. You might want to live in that America. I don't...." see full article

1210 days ago | washingtonpost
Sandra Bland and the 'lawful order' problem - The Washington Post - Washington Post

"...The Bland video brings up an overlooked problem with the law of police-citizen encounters. The police can back up their orders with force because it's often a crime to disobey a lawful order from a police officer. But from a citizen's perspective, it's often impossible to know what is a lawful order. As a result, it's often impossible for citizens to know what they can and can't do during a police encounter.The first problem is knowing what counts as an order. If an officer approaches you and asks you to do something, that's normally just a request and not an order. But if there's a law on the books saying that you have to comply with the officer's request, then the request is treated as an order. You can't know what is an order unless you study the law first, which you're unlikely to have done before the officer approached you.The even bigger problem is knowing when an order is lawful. An order is lawful if forcing compliance would not violate any law. But a citizen is in no position to assess that. Even if the police pulled over the world's greatest legal expert, the citizen still couldn't know what orders are lawful because the laws often hinge on facts the citizen can't know...." see full article

1211 days ago | nytimes
Assessing the Legality of Sandra Bland's Arrest - The New York Times - New York Times

"...If there is clearly a lawful order to get the driver out of the car and if the officer has no other choice, he can pull the driver out. But he must have exhausted all of the alternatives first, and Trooper Encinia seems to escalate things very quickly, Mr. Weisberg said. The motive for yanking her out seems to be her rude behavior, he said.Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference that Trooper Encinia had not complied with the department's courtesy policy and procedures, including letting the individual know what action is going to be taken. ..." see full article

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