fresh voices from the front lines of change







We don't know what the evidence will show happened to Sandra Bland in that jail cell. It shouldn't matter.

Does it really matter if Sandra Bland committed suicide while in police custody or was murdered? Does a suicide under police watch in any way absolve the police of responsibility?

Why was she in a jail cell in the first place, and why was she able to commit suicide in that cell?

Look how she got there in the first place. A person is pulled over for changing lanes without first signaling – apparently thinking she was getting out of the way as a police car came speeding up behind her. The driver is threatened with a Taser, pushed to the ground, taken to jail. Would she have been pulled over if she was driving a Mercedes? Would she have been pulled over if her skin was a difference color? Most of us can safely bet the answer is no. We don't have to bet that she would not have been threatened and thrown to the ground and taken to jail; she would not have.

Then she is found dead in a cell. This is not supposed to happen. Despondent and "distraught" people are brought to jails all the time. It's jail; of course people in jail are "distraught." There are procedures. There are protocols.

Dana Liebelson at The Huffington Post in, "Leaving Sandra Bland Alone In A Cell Violated Clear Jail Protocols," reports,

According to a jail standards manual published by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care last year, inmates who have a "recent prior history of self-destructive behavior" should be placed on suicide precautions. Based on her intake form, Bland should have quickly been screened by a mental health professional, said Jeffrey Schwartz, a national corrections consultant. Until then, she should have been closely observed. The mental health professional would then make a decision about whether further precautions were needed.

At a minimum, experts say, she should not have been placed in a cell with a garbage bag or protuberances that were easy to hang oneself from.

The jail obviously did not take precautions to protect this woman in their care and under their protection from committing suicide – or being murdered. It really makes no difference. Sandra Bland was not treated like a citizen and the police did not act like the guardians and protectors of the public.

The Bigger Picture

Are America's police departments and police officers our guardians and protectors of citizens? Are all Americans citizens with the same rights?

There is a presumption of innocence at the base of our legal system. People are considered "innocent until proven guilty." The Fourth Amendment is a constitutional recognition that police power can get out of control. It states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The Fifth Amendment states, "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Is that what we saw in the dashcam video of Sandra Bland's encounter with a police officer, or the phone video of her on the ground?

The beating of Rodney King was on video. It showed America something that a lot of Americans already knew.

Now there is more video and more evidence of something that a lot of Americans already knew.

After Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., we saw a .50-caliber machine gun on top of a military vehicle pointed at American citizens exercising their right to assemble and protest.

More and more, all of our citizens are demanding to be treated like citizens.

From everything we know now, even if Sandra Bland committed suicide, her death is still the result of the police department not treating her with the respect and consideration that our supposed guardians and protectors should show to all of us.

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