Sandra Bland died in police custody this past Monday. Visiting Texas from Chicago to interview for a college job at her alma mater of Prairie View A&M, she was pulled over for a routine traffic violation (failure to use her turn signal). Everything from that point forward screams racism and foul play, including her death in the Waller County jail Monday.
The first red flag is that Bland was officially arrested on Friday for assaulting a police officer. What we see from a bystander video is her telling the officers she is in pain and cannot hear after her head was slammed on the ground by the male arresting officer. The video is below.
We have now learned that Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith, who made the first public comments about Bland’s in-custody death, was suspended for documented cases of racismwhen he was chief of police in Hempstead, Texas, in 2007. After serving his suspension, more complaints of racism came in, and Smith was actually fired as chief of police in Hempstead:
Council members are reviewing video of four arrests and detentions over the past month. The officers and police chief, who are the targets of the complaints, are white. Some residents are calling for a third of the city’s 15 person police force to be suspended, disciplined, or fired.
Allegations of racism have led to the Hempstead police chief being suspended and ordered to take anger management classes.
The Hempstead city council has been reviewing the case since last week and finally came to a decision at around 2am Tuesday. A number of residents have come forward with claims of racism by at least four white police officers.
The council reviewed the complaints, along with videotapes before making their decision to punish Chief Glen Smith. Some say it wasn’t enough. The chief says he respects the decision.
“My action during the arrest did not meet professionalism as it should with language and I’m not above policy and procedure, no more than any officer of this city,” said Chief Smith.
It would seem that once a law enforcement officer—a chief of police no less—is suspended and then fired for racism and abuse, his ability to serve in law enforcement would cease.
A trooper who pulled over and later arrested a woman found dead in her jail cell was put on desk duty Friday for violating procedures, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Sandra Bland, 28, was arrested July 10, and after spending the weekend in the Waller County jail, she was found hanged in her cell Monday. Harris County’s medical examiner said the death was a suicide, but Bland’s family disputes the finding.
The FBI has joined the Texas Rangers in investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. The state Public Safety Department and Waller County district attorney have requested that the FBI conduct a forensic analysis on video footage from the incident.
In arresting Bland, the trooper “violated the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy,” state public safety officials said Friday without specifying what procedures the trooper, whose name has not been released, had violated…
…But Elton Mathis, Waller County district attorney, said Friday that no cameras were in the jail cell where she was found dead. Cameras monitoring the hall outside her cell show no one entered or left it between the time she last spoke with deputies through an intercom system and when her body was discovered
“It appears she had used a trash bag to hang herself from a partition in the ceiling, which was used to give inmates privacy,” said Mathis, who also said Bland seems to have been the only female incarcerated in the jail at the time.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited Waller County jail Thursday for not properly monitoring inmates but wouldn’t say whether its citation is related to Bland’s death. All inmates must be observed once every 60 minutes, and any inmate deemed suicidal must be observed in person every 30 minutes, Executive Director Brandon Wood said.
Smith said Thursday that jailers used an intercom to check on Bland less than an hour before she was found dead.
Sandra was arrested after being stopped for not properly signalling a lane change – a standard DWB harassment scenario. In the arrest video, she is heard telling the Officers that they had slammed her head to the ground so hard, she couldn’t hear, which would seem to be good reason to have her checked out by a Medical Professional, prior to incarcerating her. In another video being circulated she can be heard telling the Officer to “keep his %**& hands off of her”. Which raises the question of why, for a minor traffic stop, which should have at worst, wound up in a ticket…Was the cop manhandling her?
As usual in every one of these cases, the racist right has gone into full defense mode of the cops, the first step of which is to “dirty up” the image of the victim. You know, the usual – ‘He was a thug”, “He had a rap sheet a mile long”, “He was violent”. Or in this case because the victim is a black woman – “She was mentally ill”, “She resisted arrest”…
Now, I saw the inside of a few jail cells back in the ’60’s demonstrating for Civil Rights or against the Vietnam War…
And for the life of me I don’t remember the sometimes nice, sometime not deputies conveniently leaving a rope over in the corner with a convenient metal bar across the ceiling, or a plastic bag with which the prisoner could suffocate themselves…