"A roadside domestic," is how my friend and retired Baltimore cop, Leon Taylor put it. ("Code it, David-Yes.") Yeah, my idea of a fun Friday night is seeing Leon, who happened to be in town unexpectedly, and analyzing the full Sandra Bland arrest video over a beer.
Both Bland and Encinia could have deescalated, and neither did. But it's not Bland's job to deescalate. She's not paid to interact with citizens and make things safer. It's not her responsibility. She can do whatever the hell she wants. It might end up with her getting arrested. Sure. But it's only the police officer's moral and professional responsibility to do the right thing.
The job of a police officer is avoid creating potentially dangerous situations and to deal, professionally, with upset people. To intentionally not do so is bad policing.
Here's my timeline and transcript of the Officer Encinia Bland encounter. Times are based on the above video. (The transcript isn't perfect; but it's the best I could do.) The video starts with Officer Encinia wrapping up what seems to be a very nice car stop. (That car then pulls away from the curb without signaling, I can't help but notice.)
1:15 Bland makes right turn onto road.At this point I'm wondering why he's interested in Bland, if he is. It's not clear if she signaled a right turn (or stopped) or not. But he never mentions this later. Is he just speeding to get coffee? I don't know. But it does seem like he already intended to stop her. But maybe not.
1:20 Cop makes a U-Turn.
Maybe he liked stopping cars so he could give drivers warnings instead of tickets. And then he'd leave feeling all warm and fuzzy. I don't know. But you don't really deserve credit when you pull people over for bullshit and then choose not to write them up.
I'd guess he's pushing roughly 35-40 mph in what is 20 mph zone. At 2:00 Officer Encinia pulls up behind Ms. Bland, who changes lanes without signaling. Bland later tells Encinia, quite honestly, that she was trying to get out of the officer's way. Technically, though, she did failed to signal a lane change.
2:40 Officer: Hello, Ma'am. The reason for your stop is you failed to signal the lane change. Do you have your driver's license and insurance with you.Officer Encinia checks the car's front tag and then returns to police car by 4:23. He exits the car at 8:35. Now up to this point, except for a very bullshit nature of the actual violation, it's hard to fault the officer for any of his his actions or demeanor toward Sandra Bland. For her part, she signals complete verbal compliance. She's not happy. But then why should she be?
[pause or incomprehensible]
8:39 Him: OK, ma’am.Now here Bland is attempting to connect. She actually thought the officer cared what was wrong. After all, he did ask, well, "what's wrong?"
Him: You OK?
8:50 Her: I’m waiting on you. You... This is your job. I’m waiting on you. Whatever you want me to do.
8:55 Him: You seem very irritated?
8:57 Her: I am. I really am. I feel like you stopped me, for what I am getting a ticket for -- I was getting out of your way. You was speeding up, tailing me. So I move over, and you stop me. So, yeah, I am a little irritated. But so that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so...
There's a long 5 second pause before the officer says, "I'm sorry, Ma'am. I'm just going to give you a warning. Please drive safely," and Bland drives away.
Oh, wait.... That's not what happened. But that could have been the happy ending. But it wasn't.
They both end up taking the low road, but it's initiated by the police officer. This could have been the perfect time for a cop to win her over. This is how community relations start: not with a community relations officer, but with every damn interaction between police and the public.
Think of everything that has happened in the past year with police. And then think of the stupidity of this stop. And then you ask someone, "what's wrong?" and leave them for four minutes to think about the answer? Four minutes is a long time to wait for a traffic stop warning, but it's not crazy long (computers do go down and/or get slow). Four minutes is enough time to sit and fume and think about history and present and want to answer the question, "what's wrong?"
Let's rewind a few seconds:
Her: I am. I really am. I feel like you stopped me, for what I am getting a ticket for -- I was getting out of your way. You was speeding up, tailing me. So I move over, and you stop me. So, yeah, I am a little irritated. But so that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so...Oh, no he didn't!
[four second pause]
9:09 Are you done?
See this is where things went south. She told him what was going on in her mind. She was willing to receive a ticket. But she wasn't going to be happy about it. You don't have to be happy when you think the cops are going to give you a bullshit ticket. Especially for some violation that was caused by the cop's presence in the first place. You have to obey. And until this point, Bland does obey. And as a cop, that's all I ever really wanted. But rather than calm down or even listen to Bland, the officer is as rude as you could be in three non-obscene words: "Are you done?"
It's like the officer is saying, "If I don’t engage you, you’ll never how I really feel." Or, "Are you through telling me that bullshit?" Or, "I want you to start talking so I can tell to shut the fuck up." Try that with somebody you love and see how it works. Bland was compliant. She was resigned. The problem from the officer's perspective seems to be that she wasn't properly deferential. She wasn't shucking and jiving:
9:11 You asked me what was wrong and I told you. So now I’m done, yeah.I have no idea what Officer Encinia's intention is here. Except for her tone, it's her first pushback to his authority. Now don't get me wrong, authority is important to a cop. But authority is something you receive. It's something you earn. It's not something you demand. And the cop quickly becomes an asshole. Why? Because he can.
9:20 You mind putting out your cigarette please, you mind?
9:24 I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?
9:29 Well you can step on out now.
I guess because she said she didn't have to put out her cigarette in her car (though legally, she probably would have had to put out, if ordered, based on officer's perception of safety) maybe Encinia thought, I'll show you by taking you out of your car comfort zone. And then you won't give me any lip. This is straight up Southpark shit.
Again, the cop is in his rights, as the Court has defined them, but I don't see how he's making himself safer by getting her out of her car. Is she under arrest at this point? I don't know. But the Court has said that police (in a Texas case) can arrest people for even non-arrestable traffic offenses. Does that make sense? No. But it's Law of the Land.
It's possible Encinia knew his he could arrest on any traffic stop and chose to do so. Dickish, but legal. (Often this constitutional right is prohibited by state or local statute, but I doubt I don't it's prohibited in Texas). Either way, you can arrest her the moment she refuses to comply with the lawful order to get out of the car. Disobeying a lawful order is a crime. The game is rigged in police officers' favor, I'm telling you. And that's why you shouldn't play.
At any time up to this moment Bland could have also deescalated. She could have said, "yes sir, sorry sir." And probably she would have gone on her way with a warning. She made a choice. A bad choice. You'll never win an argument like this with a cop. Nine times out of ten, on strictly legal grounds, the cop is right. And the tenth time? You're still not going to win.
9:30 I don’t have to step out of the car.He's right here. She doesn't have to make small talk. But she does have to get out of the car. There's too much bad "know your rights" crap on YouTube. The problem with learning "your rights" on the internet is it's often flat out wrong. Also, even if it is right in some cases, it may not apply in your case. And there's no way to know. It depends on a lot of factors you may not know about. And the cop is under no obligation to tell you so. Sometimes, you know, there actually is a time sensitive emergecy.
Step out of the car
9:37 Her: No, you do not have the right to do that.
Him: I do have the right. Now step out or I will remove you.
9:45 Her. I refuse to talk to you other than identify myself.
The best legal advice, my advice that will never get you locked up or shot, is comply like a complying fool, do not run away, do not fight. Period. Is that too demeaning for you? Too much Ethiopian Shim Sham shucking and jiving? Well that's up to you. But as I tell my students: pick your battles.
But keep in mind police officers do not have to give you a reason for their actions. Ever. You can ask, "why?" They are under no obligations to answer. Ever. Police never have to answer your questions. Now tactically and morally, and just as common courtesy, there are very good reasons officers should sometimes explain their actions, but legally they do not have to. And sometimes (not most of the time, mind you) there are good reasons not to.
And if you insist you have a right when you don't, well, that's how you talk your way into handcuffs. Or worse. At 9:48, just 7 minutes after this doomed blind date started, they start bickering like a couple that's been in bad relationship for 170 years.
9:48: Step out or I will remove you.This is a dumb move. From a tactical perspective, what the hell is he doing? She is not an imminent threat. So you try and force her in a position where she might be? You want to force her out by yourself instead of waiting for backup that is literally a couple minutes a way. If you're solo and want to arrest somebody or get a person out of a car (not an easy thing to do), then you, office, shuck and jive and do the Ethiopian Shim Sham until you have backup. There's no reason to do this alone. And yet he does. Why? I don't know. I guess because he wants to prove his dominance over her. And Bland knows that. It's horrible policing.
Her: I am getting removed for a failure to signal?
Him: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving a lawful order. Get out of the car now. Or I'm going to remove you.
9:54 Her: I'm calling my...
9:55 I’m going to yank you outta here (take the keys)
OK, you going to yank me out of my my car.
9:59 Get out
10:00 [calls for backup]
Her: All right, let’s do this.I can't help but wonder if Sandra Bland would still be alive if she did actually understand his rights and her obligations in a police-citizen car stop.
Him: We're going to.
Her: Don’t touch me.
Him: Get out of the car
Her: Don't touch me. I’m not under arrest, and you don’t have the right.
10:10 You are under arrestFailure to obey a lawful order. Or just because he wanted to, based on Atwater.
I'm under arrest for what?! For what?
Officer Encinia then calls for faster backup around 10:15. This is also horrible policing. Other officers now will race to the call. But the only reason you need backup is because you made a bad tactical decision, officer. Racing to calls is dangerous. Officers get killed. And if you make your fellow officers race to your bullshit too often, well, after a while they're going to go really slow and stop at all the red lights. Safety first, after all.
Him: Get out of the car. Get out of the car, now!See, now we're just in straight-up bickering couple bullshit. He's dismissive of her. She's trying to emasculate him.
Her: Why am I being apprehended. You're trying to give me a ticket...
I said get out of the car.
Why am I being apprehended?
I’m giving you a lawful order. I'm going to drag you out of here.
You threatening to drag me out of my own car?
10:30 Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out of the car!
[He's holding his Taser. Bland complies.]
Her: Wow. You doing all of this for a failure to signal.
Him: Get over there.
Her: Right yeah, let’s take this to court.
Him: Go Ahead.
Her: for a failure to signal.
Get off the phone.
I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record this. It’s my property.
Put your phone down.
Put your phone down. right now. Put your phone down.
For a fucking failure to signal. My goodness.
11:03 Come over here.
Her: Ya’ll are interesting. Very interesting. You feel good about yourself? You feel good about yourself? For a failure to signal. You feel real good about yourself.
Him: Come over here now.
Her: You feel good about yourself.
Turn around. Turn around now.
Why can’t you tell me why I’m being arrested.
I’m giving you a lawful order.
Why am I being arrested?
Him: Turn around.
Her: Why won’t tell me that part?
11:25 I’m giving you a lawful order. Turn around.
Why will you not tell me that part?
You are not compliant.
I’m not compliant because you just pulled me out of the car.
11:30 TURN AROUND!
Her: Are you fucking kidding me. This is some bullshit.
Him: Put your hands behind your back.
11:35 You know this is straight bullshit. And you pull this shit. Full of straight this That’s all is some scary ass cops. Y’all bitch ass is scared. That’s all it is. Fucking scared of a female.
Him: If you would've just listened.
11:49 I was trying to sign the fucking ticket! Whatever.And here's it's all over but some more shouting.
Him: Stop moving.
Her: Are you fucking serious?
Him: Stop moving.
Oh, I can’t wait till we go to court. Ohhh, I can’t wait. I cannot wait till we go to court! I can’t wait. Oh, I can’t wait. You want me to sit down now?
Her: You was going to throw me to the floor. That’ll make you feel better about yourself?
12:06 Knock it off.
That make you feel better about yourself? That’ll make you feel real good, won’t it? Pussy ass. Fucking pussy. For a failure to signal. You doing all of this. In little ass Prairie View Texas. My God, they must...
Him: You were getting a warning. Until now. You’re going to jail
Her: I'm getting a, for what?!
12:23 You can come read it.
For what? I’m getting a warning for what?
Stay right here.
Her: For what?! You were pointing me over there!
12:29 I said stay right here
Her: Oh, I swear on my life, y’all some pussies. A pussy-ass cop. For a fucking ticket you gonna take me to jail.
[Him to dispatcher: I got her under control. She’s in handcuffs.]
Her: What a pussy. What a pussy. What a pussy. You about to break my fucking wrists.
Him: Stop moving.
Her: I’m standing still. You pulling me, goddamnit.
Him: Stay right there. Stay right here.
Her: Don’t touch me. All this for a traffic ticket
13:00 [Officer 1 to officer 2]: Cover me right over here.
Him: This right there says a warning. You started creating the problem.
Her: You asked me what was wrong. I trying to tell you.
Him: You got anything on you person, that's illegal.
Do I look like I have anything on me. This is a maxi-dress.
I'm going to remove your glasses.
This is a maxi-dress.
Come on over here.
13:20 You an asshole. You about to break my wrist. Stop. You're about to break my fucking wrist.
Officer 2: Stop resisting ma’am
If you would stop, I would tell you.
13:34 You are such a pussy. You are such a pussy.
Officer 2: No, you are.
You are dinking around You are dinking around When you pull away from me, you are resisting arrest.
This make you feel good
Officer #2: I got it.
Her: This make you feel good, officer, a female. For a traffic ticket.
Officer #2: I got it. Take care of yourself.
Her: You a real man now. Knocked. Slammed my head in the ground. I got epilepsy you motherfucker
13:56 Him: Good
Officer #2: You should have started thinking about that before you started resisting
14:02 All right. Yeah, this is real good. Real good for a female. Yeah. Y’all strong. Oh. Y’all real strong.
14:09 I want you to wait right here
I can’t go nowhere with a fucking knee on my back. Duh.
14:22 Him: You need to leave.You know the funny thing? We're only talking about it because she killed herself (or was brutally murdered by correctional officers). This is what is messed up about the rest of the criminal justice system. Bland spent three damn days in jail for failure to obey and also, while in cuffs, kicking and scratching a cop without serious injury. And now she's dead.
15:00 Sit up on your butt.
16:10 She started yanking away and then Kicked me, and I took her straight to the ground.
16:20 Officer #3: One thing, you can be sure it's on video.
16:55 Ring got you there?
31:38 Him: She kicked me, started yanking away. I brought her down into the grass. [He did put her down in the grass, which, well, I wouldn't say it was nice of him, but it was much nicer than bringing her down on concrete, which he could have done.]
As commenter to a previous post put it: "This is a bad job by the trooper... but not the worst I have ever seen." No. It's not the worst I've seen. But, man... it is bad.