Angela Davis, May 16, 1980

Davis wanted posterDavis libertad

I could have sworn this event was held at Santa Monica College (hey, it was almost 40 years ago, okay?) but apparently it was at Lincoln Auditorium, a 550-seat theater at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica. Definitely it was sponsored by the SMC women’s group and the Black Student Union.

I went with my daughter, who is deaf, and was 12 or 13 at the time, but who very patiently read a book during the event. I took one set of notes so I could explain what was said, later, if she was interested. So I probably simplified some stuff. Plus, there was a whole different set of notes, for more journalistic purposes, that said things like, “Crowd about one-third unreconstructed hippie and two-thirds middle or upper middle class.”

The talk started about half an hour late, so there was plenty of time to sign the petition for a police review board. It’s probably un-feminist to note what Davis wore, but — brown leotard, no bra, tan slacks, striped blazer, and no glasses.

$150 billion (I guess this was the military budget for the year? Like I said, less than ample notes.)
Moderate standard of living for a family of 4 – $20,000.

The United States already has enough armaments to kill the whole world 20 times over.

Capitalism – people who don’t do any work at all are the richest, and have power over everybody else – this is what we have now.
With Communism, the people who do hard work will get the money instead.
(At the time, Davis was the CP’s vice-presidential candidate, but I don’t recall that being mentioned.)

Capitalism is dying. In many countries all over the world the people are telling the big rich American companies to GET OUT. President Jimmy Carter is a member of the Trilateral Commission – a group that loves capitalism and wants to keep it everywhere.

In our country right now capitalism is dying. There is lots of unemployment – not enough jobs for people – especially black people, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, etc. In Oakland (where she lives), half of the young black men can’t find any jobs.

When young people can’t find jobs, they get bored and start doing bad things and crime. Kids take a lot of bad drugs, and really the police and the government are happy to see them do it. The government thinks if kids are busy being screwed up on bad drugs, they won’t have time to think about how screwed up the government is.

Last year the police killed a woman in Los Angeles because she didn’t pay her gas bill. The police are going crazy and think they can shoot anybody whenever they want to. In the November elections we need to try to get a Citizen Review Board so people can investigate and keep an eye on the police so they can’t just go around shooting people who didn’t do any crime.

Students and workers should be on the same side. Students should realize that in a few years they will need jobs, and try to help fight unemployment.

The way things are now, all the big companies think profits are a lot more important than people. Corporations move their plants to another country where they don’t have to pay the workers as much. Even when they do have jobs to give people, blacks and women are the last to be hired and the first to be fired.

Some people think that women who are on welfare, who get money from the state to take care of their kids because they can’t get a job, should be forced to have an operation so they can never have any more kids. Puerto Rico – 1/3 of women are permanently sterile. 1/3 of American Indian women have been sterilized.

The abortion rights struggle is important, but the struggle against sterilization abuse is also important. The department of Health, Education and Welfare no longer funds abortion, but still fully funds sterilization.

California’s Proposition 9 would cut state income tax dramatically, which would affect students because California was the only state with free college. If Prop. 9 passed, it would reduce the faculty by 7000 and close 4 campuses.

Davis wants to slash the military budget and institute a six-hour workday. Most jobs now are 8 hours a day – she wants people to work 6 hours but still make the same money. Plants would have 4 shifts a day instead of 3, so this would create more jobs.

The government is trying to make us mad at Iran and Afghanistan so we can have another war and the rich people can make more money.

My more grownup-oriented notes said the talk lasted less than an hour, with only three questions taken from the crowd afterward, and Davis seemed ill-prepared to address any issues pertinent to Santa Monica or even Los Angeles. This paragraph is from what I published about it:

“Although Davis smiled a lot and spoke softly, in mostly persuasive rather than denunciatory tones, the enthusiastic crowd was ready to applaud wildly at the merest hint of an inflammatory statement. They had obviously come to be rabble-roused by fiery, clear-headed, inexorable oratory, and got instead something considerably tamer. I was disappointed by the lack of any new insights on issues, and a dependence on slogans and cliches not appropriate to a PhD. Still, the talk ended with a very lengthy standing ovation.”

Still… this was Angela Davis. Being in the same room, hearing her talk, meant something. It meant a lot.

Davis ColumbiaDavis OaklandDavis Berkeleujpg

Photo credit: Columbia GSAPP on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Photo credit: Oakland Local on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-NDDavis

Photo credit: Berkeley Center for New Media on Visual hunt / CC BY-SADavis Berkeleyu

Posted in Heroes, Law, Racism | Leave a comment

What Killed Sandra Bland, Part 1 – No Crime is Worse than Contempt of Cop

4. walking at taserpoint USED

The bottom line here is, because Trooper Encinia didn’t like her attitude, Sandra Bland ended up dead. That was the precipitating cause of the whole grim saga, the factor without which none of the rest of it would have happened.

In Encinia’s previous traffic stop, the driver went on her way uneventfully. Probably most of his official encounters with women ended with nothing more strenuous than exchanges of paper. Like any male cop, Encinia had dealt with hundreds of women who despised him, but who took the trouble to construct a mask that would please him. Through the centuries, women have developed ways of facing male authority by adopting various submissive attitudes — flirtatious, repentant, helpless, ditzy but harmless, etc.

Sandra didn’t play that. With a rough year behind her and a lengthy to-do list ahead, she just wanted to turn the page and move on from this interruption. In the early part of the conversation, she wasn’t rude or challenging, but straightforward and matter-of-fact, like a grown-ass woman who had evolved past staging any kind of minstrel show.

But in the mind of a cop, refusal to play one of the traditional roles is interpreted as defiance. A woman is supposed to make the effort, and gin up some pathetic charade to flatter a cop’s ego. When she doesn’t, the very foundations of his world are threatened. She implies that he is not worth pandering to, and he reads that as contempt.

What killed Sandra Bland is the fact that Contempt of Cop has become the paramount crime, the unforgivable sin, the one thing that cannot be endured. If a person’s disdain for law enforcers is not immediately apparent on the surface, cops are expert at drawing it out. With practiced technique, Encinia picked and poked at Sandra, seeking her bullshit tolerance limit. After one of the many articles about her death, an online commenter wrote:

She got the “treatment” because of contempt of cop. It’s not a crime but the officers will find a way to make you pay if you show contempt.

Another anonymous commenter who claimed to be a peace officer wrote,

Sure, he let her mess with him too much.

Excuse me? She was messing with him? Only a really twisted mind could make that interpretation. The same person added,

The officer was attempting something special called “interdiction,” where he’s using the premise of minor infractions to look for larger things.

The use of the word “special” in that context is nauseating. Also, interdiction means to stop something from traveling to from point A to point B. Apparently, the cops have redefined it to mean wasting a citizen’s time with a lot of bullshit questions. The object is to “keep the dialog going to give you more time to be around the vehicle and to break down the person’s story… and get them to agree to a search of their vehicle.”

Of course there is no official “contempt of cop” charge. A cop has to write it up as disturbing the peace, interfering with an officer, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, or whatever else his imagination suggests. But the person is really being arrested for Contempt of Cop. And as we will discuss further, the perceived contempt does not even have to be behavior that any reasonable, normal person would recognize or describe as contempt – which is, after all, a very strong emotion. No, all it takes is neglecting to show the precise degree of ass-kissing the cop thinks he deserves. It isn’t just me saying this. Attorney John Hamasaki wrote of Sandra Bland,

She was in that position, in that jail cell, because of unlawful police action…
Who put her through this ordeal? Why did all of this have to happen?
Because she didn’t properly show the amount of deference and respect the officer wanted.

Race and personality

Sandra Bland was charged with “Assault on a Public Servant” and the irony is, few cops act like servants. They act like plantation overseers. A very naive person might expect that Encinia would be a better cop because of his Hispanic heritage. But it doesn’t work that way.

There are people who wake up thinking, “I’m gonna fuck with somebody today,” and they go to bed thinking, “I really fucked with somebody today!” For some mysterious reason these people are often law enforcement professionals. Their job is to fuck with people, and anyone who objects to being fucked with is, by their definition, showing contempt for their very existence.

There are people of this personality type in every race, and no doubt they have their own justifications. People whose families were persecuted react in different ways. Some are radicalized and become bitter enemies of the State. Others feel called to become part of the structure of oppression and repression, because anything is better than the chaos they were raised in.

It’s a polarizing issue that opens up a strange divide between activists who call for more black and brown cops, and the ones who call for fewer cops, period. One group believes that if more POC were cops, things would be better in the neighborhood. On the other side, people have noticed that black and brown cops can be just as bastardly as their pale counterparts – and maybe even more so, because they are motivated to prove to the authorities and the public that they are equal-opportunity brutalizers who show no favor to dark skin.

Maybe a white person has no business even speculating on the mental processes of minority cops. But these thoughts were found in the writings of Michael H. Cottman of

In the case of Freddie Gray, it’s not a simple case of racism and policing: Three of the six police officers charged in Gray’s death are Black, which underscores that the pervasive flawed police culture transcends race…
Recruitment of Black officers has been increasingly difficult over the years because many Black men harbor such distrust toward cops that they could never see themselves as part of what they perceive as a racist culture in law enforcement…
I believe community policing and more Black police officers, can slowly rebuild trust in the Black community and reduce police profiling and shootings of unarmed men and women.
I believe, all things being equal, that if more Black cops are patrolling Black neighborhoods, tensions in communities of color could be diffused…

Posted in Abominations, Folly, Law, Racism, Sandra Bland, True Crime | Leave a comment

The Death of Sandra Bland – Secondary Causes

enter at your own risk copyHow many American cities are as steeped in misogyny and racism as Prairie View, Texas? It seems obvious beyond question that Sandra Bland was executed for being an Uppity Negro and a Mouthy Broad. But aside from the blatant racism and sexism, there are nuances and layers, and a couple more major factors.

But first let’s consider an odd angle. An online commenter suggests that it’s not fair to assume pure woman-hating, right from the start. Possibly, when Trooper Encinia first noticed the car going the opposite way, a fleeting glimpse of a tall, dark-skinned, short-haired driver might have made him think “male.”

Maybe he was spoiling for a fight, and a black guy would be the ideal person to have it with. Maybe he was surprised to discover that he had stopped a woman, and dialed back his hostility for a minute, but then figured what the hell, and let it flare up. We hear about how a law enforcement officer’s job is so difficult because s/he never knows what to expect. But maybe that wariness toward the unexpected, and toward the risks the unexpected event brings, is the mark of a good cop, even though it makes the job hard.

The cops we need to be concerned about are the ones who have an unhealthy dependence on novelty. Addiction to risk is for sure the mark of a bad cop. The constant urge to get out there and tangle with somebody is not a sign of bravery, but a symptom of mental disease.

Snarky shop talk

3 getting out of car copyIn a job where anything might happen, a lot of happenings will make good stories. Recounting these scenarios is a built-in perk that helps to make some jobs bearable. Retail clerks, hairdressers, mechanics, everybody loves to report on how they told a disagreeable client where to get off. Whether an employee is behind the counter at a dry-cleaner or welcoming the public into an upscale restaurant, there are always difficult customers, and always a natural desire to embroider the story. Everyone looks forward to the ritual of sharing snarky shop talk.

Cops are no different, especially if a crude comedy routine can be built around how they ruined some poor bastard’s life. For many public servants, spreading gratuitous aggro constitutes the most rewarding part of their jobs. A lot of people wake up anxious to get out there and cluster-bomb someone’s day, week, month, or possibly even year. And uniformed goons enjoy name-dropping as much as anybody. If a celebrity is involved, that’s shop-talk gold. No doubt the local lummoxes who busted Willie Nelson for weed are still dining out on the story.

did one of these 3 trimmed copyCops are like everybody else, only more so. They love to brag to colleagues about how they handled some moke that needed a scare thrown into him. Think up a new way to violate a suspect’s rights, without doing anything the brass could write you up for, and you can be one of the popular kids. On-the-job exploits are, and always have been, a type of social currency. In the cop business, you collect these stories by fucking with people.

How to fuck with a citizen

Let’s assume that initially, Trooper Encinia wanted nothing more than a back-slapping yarn to spin for his buddies. His first visit to Sandra’s car was on the passenger side, when he asked for her paperwork and a few minutes to go and process it. Also, he asks, “Where you headed to now?”

Someone took the trouble to look up Chapter 4, Section 04.02.01 of the Texas Highway Patrol Manual, and many thanks to that person for putting it online. According to the Violator Interview script, the trooper should do seven things, in the prescribed order:
1. Greeting and identification of the agency
2. Statement of violation committed
3. Identification of driver and check of conditions of violator and vehicle
4. Statement of action to be taken
5. Take action stated
6. Explain what violator must do
7. Leave

protecting & serving copyNowhere does it say the trooper should ask how long the driver has been in the state, or where she is headed.

Next, after looking up Sandra Bland on his computer, Encinia returned, this time to the driver’s side. The appropriate thing now would be to follow steps 4 through 7 of the script: tell the motorist she’s getting a warning, have her sign for it, tell her not to do it again, and go on his way.

Instead, he opens with “Okay, ma’am. You okay?” According to some critics, this is where he jumped the shark.

Sandra Bland: I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on you. When are you going to let me go?
Encinia: I don’t know, you seem very irritated.

What is this, the Dr. Phil show? What’s up with this state of mind query? He’s not her sorority sister or her psychologist. And it becomes clear that this isn’t a guy trying to have polite conversation. This is a nosey motherfucker who figures that every additional minute he can keep this woman talking, is a minute in which something might happen that can lead to an arrest and some juicy fines.

Sandra Bland: I am. I really am. I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me. So yeah, I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so what’s the ticket for?

Fortunately, it is not yet against the law to seem irritated. But now he’s got her pegged as a sassy one, who needs a little humility lesson.

Encinia: Are you done?

Many smug law’n’order types insist that Sandra did the “escalating.” But no. The escalation was all on the trooper’s side, and that snippy “Are you done?” line is the real beginning of it.

Sandra Bland: You asked me what was wrong, and I told you.
Encinia: Okay.
Sandra Bland: So now I’m done, yeah.

cell copyThat should have been a wrap. Deliver the warning, have the citizen sign the paper; remind her not to do it again; run along and bother somebody else. Instead, he goes into full-tilt provocation and instigation. It’s like when a couple of children are riding in the back seat, and big sister keeps nudging the little sister until the little sister nudges back and then the big sister goes “Mom! She stuck her elbow in my ribs and it really hurts! Make her ride in the trunk!”

As we have seen,  if Trooper Encinia had told Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette, that apparently would have been a lawful order. But he didn’t. What he said was, “Would you mind putting out your cigarette please… If you don’t mind?” It was phrased as a request, not an order, and supposedly she could lawfully decline to grant the officer’s request. Using a species of entrapment, he tricked her into questioning and allegedly disobeying his utterance, that was not even recognizable as a legitimate order. CNN Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos wrote,

The traffic stop ENDED with the issuing of the warning,
…… you can’t argue that he could legally order her out of the car for the lane-changing thing since that business had already been concluded with the issuing of the warning.
… then you must also concede that the request to put out the cigarette (it was not a clearly-stated order) as well as the order to come out of the car were both illegal, since both of these occurred after the traffic stop was over.

How to fuck with a woman

Attorney John Hamasaki wrote:

His right to detain her ended the minute he was done with his traffic investigation and written the ticket or warning. At that point, the detention became unlawful. At that point, he is no longer acting in his capacity as a police officer, rather he is just a man in uniform harassing a woman stopped alone in her car by the side of the road.

As a teenager, I knew guys who would do things like this: roll up on a girl and ask innocently, “What color are your eyes?” and when she answered “blue,” he’d say “I asked what color they are, not what you did to get them.” And then his buddies would crack up, because the girl said a word that sounded just like “blew.”

Sandra's prints copyThis is what passed for humor in those times, and the fact that it didn’t even make sense was perhaps even more offensive than the puerile quest to trick a girl into saying a dirty word. Oh, the cleverness. Nothing has changed, and nonsense like this is a major component of a certain brand of pseudo-masculinity. (Guys don’t just do it to girls, of course, but to other guys, too. When a dude takes a certain stance and belligerently demands, “What are you looking at?” there is no correct answer.)

Agreement seems almost universal that Trooper Encinia had no reason to ask Sandra Bland to leave her car. Even if it is technically legal – and let’s face it, these days just about anything a cop wants to do is legal – there was no logical defensible reason. Doctoring has its famous basic principle, “First, do no harm.” Similarly, Rule #1 of policing should be, “Just because a thing can be done, does not mean it ought to be done.”

In his affidavit, Encinia stated his reason for removing Sandra from her car — “to further conduct a safe traffic investigation.” According to the special prosecutor, the grand jury found that statement to be false, which resulted in the only charge that was eventually filed against Encinia. That makes it pretty important. The grand jury did only one thing: it perceived that the trooper’s excuse was bullshit.

Without that bullshit excuse, none of the rest of it would have happened, and Sandra Bland would be among us.

Toxic bro culture is alive, and thrives

Take a man who hasn’t exactly scored famously with females, put him in a uniform and give him a gun. Now, he can compel women to pay him attention all day long. They have to hang around and look at his face and listen to his bullshit just exactly as long as he decides. And he can do just about anything to them and get away with it.

Let’s digress for a minute into how regrettable it is that some women use sexy theatrics to escape being ticketed, etc. To wield that kind of power is a huge temptation, but it makes things worse for all the other women who don’t want to buy their freedom by doing some kind of monkey dance, whether it’s giving the cop a blowjob or merely a nice big smile and a glimpse of cleavage. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.

Nothing’s wrong about having a great shape and a pleasing manner. But using them to get out of a bad situation should be a last resort, not the initial, go-to move. Using feminine wiles to placate cops hurts all your sisters. It enables the cops and encourages them to create scenarios like the one that ended up killing Sandra Bland.

It might have gone another way. The cop might have even enjoyed telling the boys about how he let this female motorist off with a warning, just because the sight of her bootyliciousness brightened up his day. Maybe all he wanted was a story for the locker room, about his encounter with a sassy brownskin beauty.

waller courthouse copyHowever, Sandra Bland was no meek college freshman, but a grown-ass woman whose previous law enforcement contacts were unpleasant. Encounters with police, if they are to end well, must be as stylized as Kabuki theater. Sandra, and this is one of the reasons why people love her, did a thing that rarely succeeds under these circumstances. She took him literally. He asked if she was upset, and why. She told him. Which made him feel challenged and, no doubt, inadequate.

Of course like all men, male cops are always hoping to get lucky, and there are still enough rapist-cop stories in circulation to conclude that they sometimes do. With cameras and all, it might be more difficult to perform actual sexual assault than in the past. But they make up for it in other ways. Remember Trooper Encinia’s threat when pointing his stun gun – “I’ll light you up!” It’s very, very tempting to be a complete bitch, and declare that he could never light a woman up in any other way.

The ogling factor

Why did Encinia so urgently want Sandra Bland out of her car? The answer is what feminist academics call “the male gaze,” and what used to be called “ogling.” He wanted to exercise the masculine prerogative, claimed by almost every man, of judging the body of any woman who crossed his path. How did she rate on the 1 to 10 scale? The other guys are sure to ask. But how could he possibly evaluate her ass, if she stayed in the damn car sitting on it!

If only she had been sassy-cute, rather than a mature woman aware of her rights. If only she had been willing to show him the goods – in a nice way, with a mischievous smile, it might have all been different.

Even if the encounter had ended with the delivery of a warning instead of arrest, it’s all too easy to imagine the talk in the break room or local dive bar or wherever these cretins hang out. “That heifer had some size on her,” he might have said. “In the old days, she’d have been out in the back forty, pulling a plow.”

Sandra was a statuesque woman, described by a friend as “a soldier” – 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, according to the booking sheet. In fact, she appears to have been taller than the officer – a grave offense, and perhaps there is even a pun concealed in this sentence. For a woman to be taller than a man is unnatural, don’t you know? It was one more black mark against her, and now there seem to be two puns.

Where Sandra Bland Died copyOgling is a perk of the job, and God knows, a civilian worth eyeballing doesn’t fall into a cop’s net every day. And he needs to get her out in the open, so he can check her out. Even more important, he needs to report back to the boys, “You shoulda seen it. Boo-tay for days!” and collect a congratulatory high-five.

But no. Bitch starts whining about her – what’s that? Rights?

“That’s a mighty big word for a little southern gal,” I can imagine him saying. (She’s southern by default, because that’s where all black people rightfully belonged, before they committed thievery against their owners by running away. And besides…) “I don’t know how they do things up there in Illinois, but you’re in the great state of Texas now.” (…this script just writes itself…)

The fuckery continues

As if pointing a taser weren’t enough, here’s another example of manipulation under color of law, eloquently described by CNN Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos:

But the exit order actually conceals a more nuanced constitutional problem. Notice that as she’s being arrested, the officer tells Bland that he was originally just going to give her a warning. But if you go back to the moment he returned to the car with a warning, it seems he never told her that. So only the trooper knew that Bland was going to be released with a warning. Bland believed she was still being detained for a ticket, or worse.

This is some bullying bullshit right here, like a sadistic big brother would do to a little kid. Dare him to eat a dog biscuit and then say, “I was gonna take you to Mickey D’s for lunch, but now you ate that dog biscuit, I guess you don’t need a burger and fries and a milkshake. Too bad.” Just sheer juvenile dominance games that have no legitimate place in honest law enforcement.

“Pulling someone out of the car is the only way to talk to them openly,” some cop wrote in an online forum. Really? Perhaps it is just a transparent demonstration of power, as confirmed by his use of the verb “pulling.” This officer claims that for him to talk down to someone is much more uncomfortable for the stopped driver. “Outside you’re face to face and on the same level. You can look into each other’s eyes and speak as humans.”

shitstorm coming copyExcept, no more talking was needed in this traffic stop that was, by all legal standards, already over. Except that before you end up supposedly conversing as humans, the driver has to jump through hoops and comply with the officer’s orders. Between a LEO and a civilian, there is no such thing as an interaction on equal footing, ever.

This ugly scene was summed up by Paul Spector, a retired U.S. Army captain who became a registered nurse, emergency medical technician, and paramedic. Having worked in a California state prison, he knew of many murders disguised as suicide.

Using threats and a weapon Sandra is forced from her car. Everything that follows is for the entertainment of her abductors and has nothing to do with lawful detention whatsoever.

A few more contributing factors

Eli Hager pointed out some things about the conversationafter backup arrived and after Sandra Bland had been moved into a police vehicle, between the trooper and his supervisor.

Encinia and his boss discuss how the trooper will portray his side of what happened. At one point, he reads aloud the definitions of “assault” and “resisting arrest,” as if trying to decide which charge Bland was guilty of. Later, he laughs in response to his boss’s words, then says, “No, I mean, I got some cuts on my hand, that’s, I mean I guess it is an injury.”

What question did the sergeant ask to get that answer? Probably, “You got your ass kicked, huh?” But, comradely ball-busting aside, the good ol’ boys are working it out. His superior will give the road cop a hard time, but will stand by him.

Although she is not connected with this case, I have to mention Judge Vonda Evans, who used her position to call out the toxic police culture, along with the pathetic pretense that nobody understands them, boo hoo.

SB in orange copyOn the contrary, a large portion of the public understands all too well that the police force is a haven for racists, sadists, and just plain assholes, fist-bumping and congratulating each other on what inhuman pieces of garbage they are. What a bummer that this one will likely be in prison for less than a year. Of course he will be given special protected status inside, lest some of his former victims take the opportunity for revenge. And there is still a chance that he will escape justice entirely. It took 8 months to fire him; he pleaded not guilty to the perjury charge in March; one news source says he was convicted of it in June, but another says the trial is delayed until October.

It’s such a pity that cops don’t make as much money as they and some others think they should. Maybe cities could afford to pay them better, if the cities weren’t going broke from compensating victims of police brutality. Plus, cops have opportunities to do stuff like fake injuries and go on total disability pay, for life, while working another job – like one of the cops did who “investigated” Kendrick Johnson’s death. I don’t have tears to spare for corrupt “peace officers.” One more quote from Danny Cevallos:

The Sandra Bland car stop didn’t show legal experts and civilians anything we didn’t already know: If an officer really wants to stick it to a driver during a stop, he can find a way.

Sandra Bland clearly announced her intention to see Encinia in court – which is why some theorists say she had to be killed. They believe that all charges against her would have been dropped, and the Dept. of Public Safety would have endured bad publicity. If that was the reason for murdering her in jail, it backfired, because now the publicity is horrendous.

And then there’s the whole policing-for-profit racket. So many states get their operating funds by harassing the public, especially the financially disadvantaged public, with rinky-dink charges. If that form of officially sanctioned highway robbery had not been allowed to grow and fester, Sandra Bland would probably be alive today.

There's nothing better

Posted in Folly, Law, Racism, Sandra Bland, True Crime | 3 Comments

Sandra Bland and the Trooper’s BS about Safety

Encinia's peers

Let’s dispel once and for all the myth that Trooper Encinia’s actions and behavior had anything to do with safety. Describing the start of the traffic stop, the Breitbart website told it this way:

Encinia approaches her vehicle using standard officer safety procedures. He checks the trunk and then cautiously walks up to her passenger side window.

They talk. Contrary to later claims that he feared for his safety, at 4:03 in the video he turns his back on Sandra and walks to his car, without a care in the world. She could have shot him more times than Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald. But she didn’t, and he stayed in his car, doing research, until minute 8:40.

Now, Encinia must have felt more safe, not less so, because when he returned to Sandra’s car, this time he approached on the driver’s side. The traffic stop was supposed to be almost over. All he needed to do was let her sign a piece of paper, and go on his way.

But rather than do that, he lingered for no good reason, and his defenders say he felt unsafe standing in the street. Really? It’s not like they were on the edge of a goddam freeway. Very little traffic went by, and other drivers were certainly able to perceive the immobile cop car from a great distance.

And think back to the traffic stop he made just before accosting Sandra Bland. When dealing with the driver in the red car, he comfortably occupied part of the road, with no thought for the much-touted officer safety issue. Then, he got back in his nice safe car and drove away. Which was all he needed to do, a short time later, after serving a warning on Sandra. But he didn’t.

1st stop - safety claim

The Affidavit and Complaint for Warrant of Arrest and Detention is comedy gold: “I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation”. That line is what the grand jury nailed him for. They intuited that Encinia wanted this driver out of her car for some reason other than a safe traffic investigation. They didn’t believe the reason that he offered, and branded his obvious oath-violating lie as the crime of perjury. It’s a Class A misdemeanor, which could cost him a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.

And why should anyone believe his “safe traffic investigation” bullshit? At the point when the traffic stop should already have been concluded, why did he find it necessary to coerce Sandra out of her car? Supposedly, it was so he could continue to question her in a location that was safer for him. But question her about what?

According to the precedent set by a case called Pennsylvania v. Mimms, when Encinia forced this driver to walk over to the grass beside the road, it was justified for the safety of both the officer and the detainee. Supposedly, if they kept on talking next to Sandra’s car, passing traffic might injure them.

Okay then, why did he think it was acceptable to leave Sandra’s driver-side door open, creating a hazard to passing traffic? Even while pointing the taser with one hand, he still could have closed that door. Instead, he left it open and set up the potential for an accident. Safety was the last thing on his mind. What was foremost? The necessity to get Sandra out of range of his dashboard camera.

A grand jury last month tied its perjury indictment of Encinia to his statement in an affidavit where he said Bland was combative and uncooperative after he stopped her and that he removed her from her car to further conduct a safer traffic investigation.

In the official paperwork, the Affidavit and Complaint for Warrant of Arrest and Detention, Encinia wrote, “Bland was removed from the car but became more combative.” More combative? How combative could she have been before that? How combative can a person be, sitting in an automobile with the door closed? How could she have hit him, or kicked him, or done any other kind of an assault, from a seated position, with a metal door between the two of them? Encinia was the one who opened the car door and removed the barrier between himself and the woman he claimed to be so afraid of.


For all the legal details, I recommend Ian Millhiser’s “What The Supreme Court Has To Say About Sandra Bland’s Arrest

Posted in Abominations, Folly, Law, Racism, Sandra Bland, True Crime | Leave a comment

Sandra Bland and the Trooper’s Cigarette BS

There's nothing better

Trooper Encinia: You mind putting out your cigarette, please? If you don’t mind?

Was it legal? Yes and no. It would have been legal if he’d said it correctly. Even the Breitbart website, which staunchly defends the cop, noted,

Trooper Encinia politely asks her to put out her cigarette. This is a common request by officers…

“Request” is the key word. But here’s the thing. He said it that way to trick Sandra Bland into making a mistake he could arrest her for. He wanted her to believe it was only a suggestion, which she could choose to follow or not. And still, she did not outright refuse, but merely asked a question:

Sandra Bland: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?

That, supposedly, was the justification for Encinia to flip immediately into BadCop mode:

Trooper Encinia: Well you can step on out now.

That’s where everything went haywire, as a result of his order that wasn’t really an order, and her refusal that wasn’t really a refusal. Paradoxically, his clever trick of disguising the cigarette order as a polite request, is exactly what made it illegal.

Let’s play back the notorious line again:

Trooper Encinia: You mind putting out your cigarette, please? If you don’t mind?

This piece of performance art enabled innumerable trolls to become indignant on the trooper’s behalf. “Look how polite he was,” they say. Yes, a perfect Southern gentleman. Out of the whole tragedy, it’s difficult to choose the most egregious example of authoritarian bullshit, but this might be it. According to the legal experts, Encinia had a right to tell – not ask – a driver to put out a cigarette.

His duty was to be clear about the mandatory nature of the demand, by stating that it was an order. But he failed. He just went right ahead and skipped that step, and decided to give her a ration of shit. As others have mentioned, just because an officer has the legal right to order someone to extinguish a cigarette, that doesn’t mean the officer must issue such an order, and many don’t. An online comment to a news article says,

I have been in law enforcement for nearly twelve years… I cannot conceive a reason why he would think he would have her to put her cigarette out so that he could have her sign a WARNING ticket.

So what, supposedly, was Trooper Encinia’s reason? Well, his fanboys and girls say the officer has the right to breathe clean air while doing his job. Bullshit. He was outside in the open air, and nothing obligated him to remain standing there a moment longer. All he had to do was hand over a piece of paper, get it signed, and bounce. If he had done what he was supposed to do, there was no reason for one molecule of smoke to affect him. He was the one blowing smoke.

Another theory is that he was afraid of coming into contact with the lit end. For the Wonkette website, Doktor Zoom wrote,

Yes, cops can in fact tell you to put out your cigarette in your own car during a traffic stop, because they don’t want to be facing an angry person with a burning-hot object in their hands.

If Sandra had tried to hold the clipboard with one hand and the pen with the other to sign her name, did he really expect a third hand to come at him with a cigarette? If he was so damn worried about the possibility, why did he insist on moving closer? A very smart writer named Ian Millhiser says,

Additionally, Trooper Encinia did not mention the argument over the cigarette (or the fact that he pulled his stun gun) in his official incident report. If Encinia truly believed that the lit cigarette was a danger to his safety that offered a legal justification for his actions, then it is unlikely that he would not have mentioned it in the report.


Posted in Abominations, Folly, Law, Racism, Sandra Bland, True Crime | 3 Comments

Was Sandra Bland Personally Targeted?

car with target


A viable theory was proposed by Paul Spector, who has beaucoup respectable professional credentials, and he’s not the only one who thought of it. He suspects that events were set into motion before Sandra Bland and Trooper Encinia actually met. In other words, I’m not the lone paranoid nutcase here.

Many interested people take it for granted that someone accessed Sandra’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, which expressed her thoughts clearly. Or maybe it was her YouTube channel that influenced someone to single her out for abuse.

In a little burg like Prairie View,Texas, cruising LEOs probably look up information on lots of drivers. It would not be at all surprising to learn that as soon as Sandra rolled into town, she was identified as an activist, and was given special attention from that moment on. Three months after her death, a radio personality from out of state was in Prairie View with friends, headed for the Homecoming football game. They were stopped by a police officer who clearly stated, “We been watching you since you got here.”

Sandra was what the trolls call a shit-stirrer, and when this particular nuisance of a woman appeared on the scene, it’s quite possible that someone made a decision. Give her a little taste of Waller County justice, maybe scare her back to where she came from. Or maybe just intimidate her enough to guarantee docile behavior, going forward.

The future is here

Gone are the quaint old days when all we had to worry about was an FBI dossier earned by subscribing to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee newsletter. Now, any agency can know everything about anybody, and pass the knowledge on at a moment’s notice to any other bureaucracy that might be interested. It happens thanks to technology (databases, systems and networks) and the National Network of Fusion Centers, which was designed to operate at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels. Their Fact Sheet says:

Fusion centers provide interdisciplinary expertise and situational awareness to inform decision-making at all levels of government. They conduct analysis and facilitate information sharing while assisting law enforcement and homeland security partners in preventing, protecting against, and responding to crime and terrorism.

Fusion centers are owned and operated by state and local entities with support from federal partners in the form of deployed personnel, training, technical assistance, exercise support, security clearances, connectivity to federal systems, technology, and grant funding.

As a thought experiment, let’s give the Prairie View fuzz the benefit of the doubt, and assume that Sandra was not pre-profiled, and that her encounter with Encinia was only a random twist of fate. They talked a bit and he retired to his cruiser to do research. Four and a half minutes does not sound like a long time, but sit through those minutes of the traffic stop video, and just get a sense of how many screens of information entered his eyeballs during that interval.

No doubt Encinia is a slow reader, but even so, the break he took in his car would have been plenty long enough to call up the data and comprehend that he had met with a designated victim.

What might the trooper have learned from a quick online search? For The Nation, Debbie Nathan explored Sandra’s social media presence. Encinia might have seen her Facebook confession: “Walked into the house to a sink full of dishes. So I smashed a few plates (literally) to make myself feel better.” It’s very easy to form an unfavorable impression of someone from just a few lines of their dialogue.

It got worse. Apparently Sandra suggested that white people make black friends, and vice versa. Is there a proposition that a white supremacist cop would less want to hear? He might have seen her online project, Sandy Speaks. She videoed herself saying, “It’s time for me to do God’s work,” and “I’m here to change history.” It can safely be assumed that the Prairie View police force did not favor change of any kind, historical or otherwise, in its neck of the woods.

Sandra posted,


Nathan wrote,

She posted an image of a young black man in close-up, his neck encircled by an American flag, knotted so as to kill him by hanging. She made the noose image her profile picture.

It’s not obvious which flag/noose meme was Sandra’s choice. The theme resonates with more than one artist. Moise Morancy  specializes in it. Nate Parker used it in the poster created for his film “The Birth of a Nation.”

Dae Dae, Shy Glizzy and PnB Rock adapted the look for their “Birth of a New Nation” tour.

Black Man in America” is a limited edition print by Laurie Cooper. 

Lil brown boy” is a painting by Demar Douglas.
Encinia would probably have learned, if not from social media, then from other sources, that Sandra Bland had a friend and mentor in Prairie View, a counselor with whom she had worked. Who knows what other connections she had from her student days? What if the local cops just happened to not like one of her friends? This would not be a good introduction to a town, and incidentally, it could happen to anyone. White privilege might save some from the consequences of what’s in the computer, but it’s all in there.

Crime writer Garry Rodgers has compiled a thorough report on just exactly how totally identified a person can be within minutes. The paragraph headed RISC is interesting. Was Sandra Bland an Individual of Special Concern?

Just like everybody else?

Or maybe Sandra wasn’t personally chosen, but only targeted to the same extent as any other resident or student in the black-majority town of Prairie View. As in so many other pestilential no-justice hellholes (like Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot) law enforcement pays its salary by shaking down the citizens. For the whole story of for-profit policing in Texas, see Debbie Nathan’s “The Real Reason Sandra Bland Got Locked Up.”

According to the Fusion Center Guidelines,

The ultimate goal is to provide a mechanism through which government, law enforcement, public safety, and the private sector can come together with a common purpose and improve the ability to safeguard our homeland and prevent criminal activity.

Ever since Minority Report, cops are all about the art and science of preventing crime by reading people’s minds and predicting whether they might possibly do something illegal some day. The fuzz perceive themselves as Merlin-like magicians, who draw upon their immense experience and unparalleled sagacity (and the vast cyber-resources of many networked agencies) and pronounce judgment on people in advance, which according to its Latin roots is the very definition of prejudice.

Cops believe they are qualified to preemptively deal with future problems by removing certain pre-criminals from society and/or life. Trooper Encinia stopped Sandra for neglecting to hit her blinker light and then, magician-like, he turned failure to signal into a capital crime.


The Real Reason Sandra Bland Got Locked Up, 12/18/

What Happened to Sandra Bland?, 04/21/16

Posted in Abominations, Folly, Law, Racism, Sandra Bland, True Crime | 8 Comments

Sandra Bland, Scapegoats and Stalemates


On March 22 Brian Encinia pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of perjury, which is the only criminal charge anyone is facing for the death of Sandra Bland. There is supposed to be another hearing in mid-May, and the worst penalty Encinia faces is a year in jail and a fine of $4,000.

Every covert operation needs a sacrificial lamb, if things go wrong. When the public gets riled up and wants to taste blood, somebody has to be thrown to the wolves. When Sandra died, Encinia was the most obvious candidate. More than likely, whoever runs things in that neck of the woods convinced him to take a hit for the team. With all the attention focused on him, as the symbolic representative of BadCops in Waller County, the rest of them could get back to business as usual.

More than likely, Encinia will be compensated somehow for the trauma of being accused and inconvenienced by having to show up in court, etc. They’ll make sure he has another job lined up, and though he probably won’t have to serve any time, no doubt someone has promised to take care of his family if he has to go away for a while. That’s the criminal situation. But there is something else going on.

An uninvolved lawyer describes the purpose of civil suits, which rarely result in monetary awards, but they do raise consciousness and awareness:

The point in filing a wrongful death lawsuit is not to obtain revenge, but to provide a grieving family with a vehicle to send a message to others that the circumstances of their case should not be allowed to happen ever again.

As the world knows, Sandra Bland’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against several officials and the Waller County jail and the jailers and especially Trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested her to exercise his suspect-brutalizing muscles and also just for the hell of it. A judge set the trial date for January, 2017. It seems a long way off, and chances are it can be pushed even further into the future. The lawyers who work for Sandra Bland’s family can’t get their hands on what they need for the civil case, when those materials are part of an ongoing criminal matter.

In other words, there had to be some kind of a criminal case, so the innocent public can feel hopeful that some kind of justice will be done, when it probably will not. But the most important purpose of having some kind of a criminal case is that it can be stalled and prolonged indefinitely, meanwhile preventing forward progress on the civil side.

It’s a chess game, and by making the criminal case last forever, a stalemate can be brought about. It’s happening with the Kendrick Johnson case. His parents dropped their civil suit – for now, anyway – because no forward motion can happen as long as Johnson’s death is supposedly being investigated as a criminal matter. And this, in turn, is supposed to thwart the money-grubbing families of dead victims.

It gets even worse. Some online idiot who is fixated on the mythical Black Grievance Industry proposed the bizarre theory that Sandra Bland volunteered for a suicide-by-cop mission, so her mother could collect a monetary award for damages. That scenario is so grotesque that I can only treat it like the joke that it is and say, “Damn, my rotten kid never once offered to do that for me.”

Posted in Abominations, Folly, Racism, Sandra Bland, True Crime, Uncategorized | 4 Comments