“I’ll Light You Up”

As I have written several thousand times, Americans, especially black Americans, cannot assume they have rights or live in a free country when they are dealing with the police. It is no longer up to police to be professional and calm, it is the citizens’ job to maintain their cool, de-escalate the situation and deploy psychological understanding of confrontations when dealing with out of control police officers who demand total obeisance.

My advice is this: imagine how you would act if you were confronted by a gang banger with a gun and conduct yourself in exactly the same way when you are in the presence of the police. Your “rights” do you just a much good in that moment.

It shouldn’t be that way. Dealing with the cops is an inherently stressful situation for any cop. People react badly to perceived injustice. They are afraid and not themselves. It should be part of the officers’ job description to know how to deal with people in that state without turning it into a battle of wills. Instead, the nervous and fearful citizens have to be the ones to rise above their fear because the police require that their power be instantly respected or else.

I’m talking about this, of course:

A dashboard camera video taken by law enforcement officers and released Tuesday showed in excruciating detail how a routine traffic stop led to a shouting match and struggle between a state trooper and a woman, three days before she was found hanging in her jail cell.

State legislators who saw the video of the arrest of the woman, Sandra Bland, just before it was publicly released sharply condemned the officer’s behavior, which the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, said was a violation of department arrest procedures. State Senator Royce West, Democrat of Dallas, said Ms. Bland, 28, should never have been taken into custody.

State Representative Helen Giddings, Democrat of Dallas, said, “This young woman should be alive today.”

New Details Released in Sandra Bland’s Death in Texas JailJULY 20, 2015
F.B.I. Investigating Police Accounts of Black Woman’s Death in CustodyJULY 16, 2015
Ms. Bland, an African-American from the Chicago area who had come to Texas for a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, was arrested after she was stopped July 10 for failure to signal a lane change.

A photograph of Ms. Bland that was released after her arrest. Credit Waller County Sheriff’s Office, via European Pressphoto Agency
The video showed the officer pulling Ms. Bland over and their encounter escalating into a physical altercation in which he threatened her with a stun gun.

“I will light you up,” the trooper said, pointing the stun gun at her.

The video also confirmed an account from the family’s lawyer that the confrontation between Ms. Bland and the trooper, Brian T. Encinia, escalated after she refused his order to put out a cigarette, Mr. West said.

Neither the stun gun nor the confrontation over the cigarette was mentioned in Trooper Encinia’s incident report, which was also made public on Tuesday.

The video showed Trooper Encinia standing outside the driver’s door and explaining to Ms. Bland that she was being written up for failing to signal a lane change.

“You seem very irritated,” he said.

“I am, I really am,” she said. She said she had pulled over to get out of his way and was now getting stopped and written up because of it.

It went very wrong:

People will claim that she shouldn’t have talked back to the officer, kept her head down, answered all his questions and submitted without comment because we must respect authority. And those people tend to be the same ones who shriek about freedom and liberty and claim that government is tyranny. The irony of that isn’t funny at all.

Update: Ian Millhiser thinks that the arrest was illegal under a recent Supreme Court decision. Apparently looking for reasons to assert your authority isn’t ok. Who knew?

Update II: And yes the video is edited. We don’t know why. And we don’t know if she really committed suicide yet either.  But we do know that this cop was out of control, that is without question.

Get updates in your inbox

Comments