Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On the Sandra Bland Arrest Video

(note:  The video below has been removed from YouTube, presumably by the officials who put it up in the first place.  There's a new video where the continuity problems have been fixed (we are told), but I'm not sure if my time information still applies.

Thanks to Monkeyfister for another link to the initial video, here)

It's this one:

I watched it last night from the beginning to end.  The important first time is at about 1:50 when Sandra Bland commits a minor traffic infraction by not indicating a lane change.  The altercation begins at about 8:34.

The officer, Texas State Trooper Brian T. Encinia,  asks Bland to put out her cigarette.  She answers by saying that she is in her own car.  Next, the officer asks her to step out of the car.  He gets more adamant in his request as she questions his right to make her do that.  He then reaches in and appears to start pulling her out of the car.

That is the start of everything, and my opinion is that it was the officer who began the escalation by reacting to Bland's refusal to put her cigarette out the way he did.  Does he really have a legal right to make her step out of her car for the answer she gave?  Is one not allowed to refuse any request an officer makes in Texas?

Watch the rest of the altercation yourself, remembering that later in the video (at about 23:30) Encinia explains to someone else (while his voice can be heard by us) how he tried to defuse what was taking place, how he tried to calm her down.  Note that he tells her to move to the side where the video fails to record anything visual.  Only the voices are audible until we no longer hear Bland at all but only various police officers' voices.

I couldn't understand everything Bland said while she was upset, but as LA Times wrote that last, night:

Throughout, Bland is questioning why she is being arrested and often shouts expletives. Encinia responds in angry tones that she should obey his orders.

What the LA Times failed to record was that when Bland told Encinia that she had epilepsy he responded (at about 14:00) "Good."  In general, that particular newspaper report sounded somewhat biased to me, so I decided to write this post without seeing any other reports (so now you know).

The rest of the long tape, after officer Encinia's interpretations of what happened,  has a lot of nothing happening.  But a tow-truck comes for Bland's car and its driver appears to miraculously emerge from the truck more than once even though he didn't go back before the other appearances.  So something is wrong with the video at least at that point.

So what do I make of what I saw?  As I wrote earlier, officer Encinia started it.  Did he have a right to demand that Bland get out of her car for refusing to put her cigarette out?  If that's the case, can one ever refuse anything an officer asks one to do?  What if it's to stand on one leg and imitate a cuckoo bird sound?

Bland talked back, and she got angrier and angrier, too.  But so did Encinia.  It was his voice which was more filled with rage in the video.  The video doesn't show Bland allegedly kicking Encinia, and neither does it show how he handled her physically (though the video shows that her hands were cuffed behind the back before any possible kicking might have happened)*.   I also thought that Bland sounded quite rational in her statements.  She was angry, sure, but she was asking what the grounds for her arrest were.  She also threatened Encinia with a court case for a false arrest.

*There's a video taken by a bystander of Bland on the ground.  You can hear Encinia telling the person who took it that he or she must leave in the official video above.

Added later:  For those readers who are not following the events, the frame for understanding this post is this earlier post.

Added even later:  I should note that I wrote this whole post from the stance of trying to be extremely neutral, so I'm not saying that the video might have been edited.  Perhaps there are other reasons for all the odd stuff?  But if so, I want to hear what those reasons are.