It seems as if I wake up every day to the sound of another name. Like a gunshot. They ring out over social media.
This week it was Sandra Bland.
I didn’t know who she was last month. Last year. She wasn’t a friend. Wasn’t someone I knew. But I knew her story as soon as the hashtag popped up on Twitter.
I already knew what happened. A moment of digging into a link posted by a friend yielded the details.
She was 28 years old. Younger than me. But she was vocal like me. Specifically, she was vocal about police abuse. Like me.
The difference between the two of us was that Sandra was a black woman. And there are consequences for being a vocal black woman that there are not on the table for me as a vocal white woman.
They found Sandra dead in her cell in police custody on July 13th.
The initiated a federal investigation on the 16th. They thought she might have been murdered.
Then they released the dashcam footage yesterday. And it did not come anywhere close to exonerating the police. I will not share the video here. You can go and look for it. I watched it once and I will never watch it again.
A summary, though, for those of you who want to avoid watching it.
In the video, officer Brian Encinia pulls her over. After a brief exchange, he tells her to put out her cigarette. She refuses. He asks her to step out of the car. When she refuses, they argue for a minute until he tells her to get out of the car again and threatens to “light her up” with his taser. Then he moves to arrest her on the sidewalk, out of view of the dashcam. There is some kind of physical altercation on the sidewalk, out of view, and Sandra is arrested.
Far from exonerating the officers, this video was troubling to it’s very core. She was being pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. She is not required to put out her cigarette during a traffic stop. There was no reason for the officer to have her exit the vehicle. And the sound of the scuffle off where the cameras can’t see was disturbing in the extreme.
Today, the latest news is that the video appears to have been edited. Which just makes everything worse. It’s clear that the footage has been doctored within the week that has passed since Sandra’s death. In the video, the footage appears to have been looped and edited several times, with cars appearing and disappearing and people walking out of the frame multiple times.
I just… the thing that keeps getting to me about all of the deaths and abuse that we have been seeing is the brazen way that they are perpetrated.
It’s obvious that Sandra’s death was wrongful with even a cursory glance at the facts. It’s obvious that she did not need to be arrested. It’s obvious that the officer’s behavior was out of line. It’s obvious that the video was doctored.
And yet, as with all of these cases, I hold out no hope that Sandra’s killers will see justice done. At most, they will get fired or something. They won’t stand trial for her murder. They won’t suffer for the way that she suffered.
It’s horrible to feel the truth of that. The immunity that police enjoy in these cases. Because really, every time this happens, it erodes my faith in the justice system a little more. It takes away from the ability of people of color in this country to feel safe in their own neighborhoods. It erodes the ability of good cops to do their jobs safely.
The more this happens, the more we lose. I just wish someone in government would wake up and see that and do something.