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.
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”