Wednesday, August 12, 2015

This Blog is Bland

You may notice something out of the ordinary compared with other posts:

"In the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest, the tape doesn’t lie" by Ty Burr Globe Staff  July 23, 2015

This is the movie review guy, so I'm already suspicious of the film.

This is a tale of two stories, the official version and the one we can see with our own eyes. They’re both on the record, captured on videotape. And the difference is damning.

A lot has been written about the roughly eight minutes of police dashboard-camera video in which Sandra Bland was pulled over and arrested. Hardly anything has been written about the 10 minutes further on in which the arresting officer tells his story over the radio to his supervisor. This is a shame, because it is in those 10 minutes that we witness the reality of institutional power get recontextualized into a narrative of institutional blamelessness.

Reality recontextualized into a narrative is the same as reading the paper (except for the reality part).

On July 10, Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois native, was in Waller County, Texas, visiting her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, where she had recently been hired in a student outreach position. Texas state trooper Brian Encinia charged her with a traffic violation. An altercation ensued; Bland was forcibly removed from her car, handcuffed, and taken to the Waller County Jail, where she was charged with assault on a police officer and held on a $5,000 bond.

What kind of traffic violation?

Bland was active in the Black Lives Matter movement and had a deeply felt interest in effecting change; during her arrest, she was vocal about taking her case to court. She was about to start a good job. During her three days in jail, she left a calm and collected voicemail for a friend.

Uh-oh. She was part of the Soros-funded provocation.

Yet on July 13, hours before her sister was to arrive with $500 bail, Bland was found dead in her cell of asphyxiation, a garbage can cord tied around her neck. Police issued a statement saying she had hanged herself and, according to a county autopsy report released Thursday, her injuries were consistent with suicide.

The 52-minute police car dashboard-cam video released by the Texas Department of Public Safety on July 21 provides no answers. But it does lay bare the sickeningly stark dissonance between what actually happened during her arrest and what Trooper Encinia says happened.

I think what you need to do these days, based on past acts well as present, is start from the position that authority is lying.

The video is a one-shot masterpiece of found cinema.


Maybe it was just that.

The unmoving, unjudging frame, filmed from behind the windshield of the trooper’s car, offers moments of banality and terror in equal measure — if you’re in a pointy-headed turn of mind, you know that Warhol would have approved. But this video doesn’t put you in a pointy-headed turn of mind.

It begins with the final moments of a previous incident, Trooper Encinia issuing a warning to a young woman, apparently for speeding. Nor does she apparently have an insurance card. But he’s paternal and chatty, laughing as he reminds her to e-mail her dad for the insurance information. Is she white? We don’t know. The girl drives off and turns left, passing Bland, who turns right and passes the police car. The trooper pulls a U-turn and follows her. He has his next violation. It feels a little like stalking.

At 2:52 on the tape, he has her pulled over and takes her license, telling her she failed to signal a lane change; she claims she only moved into the right lane to let him by. At 8:34, after running her information, he returns to Bland’s car to give her a warning.

This is when the power games begin. Encinia will later be heard telling his sergeant on the radio that “she wouldn’t even look at me, she was looking straight ahead. Just . . . mad.” He seems to decide to goad her a bit, maybe bristling at her lack of proper respect. “OK?” he asks. “I’m waiting on you, this is your job,” she replies tersely. “You seem irritated,” he responds, which is not the best thing to say to someone who’s irritated. Bland admits she is, in fact, irritated.

Maybe she was having a bad day, or maybe she was having a good day that had just turned bad. Maybe she forgot what our parents told us and what we tell our children, which is to “yes sir, no sir” our way through any encounter with the police, especially if we’re from out of town. Maybe she just didn’t care anymore. Maybe she had just had enough. None of which asks for or excuses what happened next: a textbook example of an insecure and inexperienced cop who will brook no questioning — not even a scintilla — of his power. That the questioning came from a black woman in a county with a notably sorry racial history, in and out of the police department, may have nothing at all to do with it. And the Red Sox may win the World Series this year.

At 9:21, rather oddly, Encinia demands Bland extinguish her cigarette. He asks “politely,” with a “please,” but this is the fulcrum, right here. The specifics of the request don’t matter — he could be asking her to stand on her head and rub her belly — but her absolute obedience to his will does. It’s a test, and she fails it. “I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?” Bland asks. She’s technically and legally correct, but that’s all the trooper needs to hear. His voice turns sharp as he pulls close to the car door and says, “Well, you can step on out now.”

She refuses. It escalates, and quickly, with Encinia’s tone growing more and more threatening.

9:37: “Step out, or I will remove you. I am giving you a lawful order.”

9:59: “I am going to yank you out of here!”

10:25: “Why am I being apprehended?” Bland demands to know. She gets no answer.

10:30: Encinia waves his Taser at her and bellows “GET OUT OF THE CAR — I WILL LIGHT YOU UP!” Bland’s response: “Wow. You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal? . . . Let’s take this to court.” More insubordination. Unforgivable.

He gets her out of the car, but Bland has passed the point of no return and so has Encinia — since he has the power, it’s a losing game for her. She berates him and asks over and over why she’s being arrested and still she gets no answer; eventually he will tell her she’s being arrested for resisting arrest, a response that is worthy of Kafka. She is dragged off camera and handcuffed, and we hear her angry taunts turn to screams and whimpers of pain.

13:20: “You’re breaking my wrists!”

13:50: “I’ve got epilepsy, [expletive]!” Encinia’s response: “Good.”

We have just witnessed a drama of escalation that simply didn’t have to be. Surely, officers of the law are capable of dealing with frustrated, surly, angry people without bending the situation into a showdown. What was it that made Bland an active threat that had to be contained and put in its place? Her color? Or that her color combined with intransigence translates to “uppity” in this and many other parts of America, and that there is no official response to “uppity” other than to put it down hard.

Why did Occupy Wall Street just come to mind?

But this is only the first half of the tale. The second comes several minutes later, the camera continuing to record as Bland’s car is searched, and Encinia, sitting in his vehicle, can be heard discussing the incident with his sergeant. Here is where we hear the trooper revise the narrative of what has just occurred, unconsciously or not, so that he can come out the level-headed good guy.

At 23:35 on the tape, he says “I tried to de-escalate her and I wasn’t getting anywhere at all. . . . I tried talking to her, calming her down, and that was not working. I’m trying to get her detained, trying to get her to calm down, just calm her down, stop throwing your arms around. She never swung at me, just flailing, stomping around, and I said, all right, that’s enough, and that’s when I detained her.”

This is in flagrant contradiction of everything we’ve just witnessed; it is, quite simply, a lie. At no time did Trooper Encinia attempt to “de-escalate” the situation with Bland. On the contrary, he pushed it forward until it exploded — until he exploded.

Still talking with his supervisor, Encinia is heard reading the definitions of “assault” and “resisting arrest,” trying to decide which charge would best fit. 27:00: “I kinda lean toward assault rather than resist. I mean, technically, she’s under arrest when the traffic stop is initiated. You’re not free to go. I didn’t say ‘you’re under arrest,’ ‘stop, hands up.’ That did not occur. There was just the assault part.”

Welcome to American roadside justice, where you’re arrested the moment you’re pulled over and they figure out what for later. 33:58: Encinia is laughing by now. The sergeant apparently asks if he was hurt in the incident. “I got some cuts on my hand,” he replies. “I guess it is an injury. I don’t need medical attention. I got three little circles from I guess the handcuffs when she was twisting away from me.” This will later morph into further proof that Bland assaulted Encinia. Again the trooper insists, “I only took enough force as seemed necessary — I even de-escalated once we were on the pavement.”

He seems to believe it by now. It sounds good, true, strong. He has convinced himself he’s a decent guy. That he did the right thing.

Bland is nowhere in sight. In three days, she’ll be dead in mysterious circumstances, the FBI and Texas Rangers will intervene, and the officer will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The system — of which the dash-cam is now a part — would seem to be working, but only the naive would think the system doesn’t also work to protect its own.

At 34:26 on the tape, having successfully relieved himself of any culpability, Trooper Brian Encinia takes a moment to ponder what just happened and why. “Y’know, over a simple traffic stop,” he tells his sergeant. “I don’t get it. I really don’t.”

No, sir, you don’t. You don’t get it at all. That is precisely the point. And it’s the very least we can say about this appalling and outrageous tragedy of power and race.


So video cited by the pre$$ is going to be considered sacrosanct now? Anyone who thinks otherwise would have to be crazy, right?

(I did do further research and nowhere have I seen it suggested the video is fake or this is a hoax)

"Autopsy suggests Sandra Bland’s injuries caused by suicide" by David Montgomery and Michael Wines New York Times   July 24, 2015

HEMPSTEAD, Texas — A county prosecutor in Texas said Thursday that an autopsy of Sandra Bland, who died in a jail cell here nearly two weeks ago after a minor traffic stop, concluded that her injuries were consistent with suicide, not homicide, a finding that underscored growing doubts that the jail did enough to monitor her.

Bland had told two jail intake workers on July 10 that she had tried last year to kill herself after losing a baby and told at least one of them that she had experienced bouts of depression.

I'm wondering now if prescription pharmaceuticals were involved. 

Yet they did not place her on a suicide watch or summon a mental health expert to evaluate her, steps national experts say should be standard practice. Nor did they follow other mandatory procedures aimed at protecting inmates at risk, state inspectors said last week.

Bland, a 28-year-old African-American who was moving to Hempstead from the Chicago area for a job at a local college, was found hanging from a plastic trash can liner in her cell on July 13. She was supposed to start her new job, at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college that was her alma mater, two days later.

That is strange for a woman who was exhibiting self-assuredness and had a bright future ahead.

On Thursday, the chairman of the state Senate committee that oversees Texas corrections said the jail where she died, in Waller County outside Houston, had mishandled her case, and that state rules governing potentially suicidal inmates need to be overhauled.

“When we lock somebody up, we have a responsibility to take care of them,” said Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat of Houston, the longest-serving member of the Republican-dominated Senate. “What I’ll be seeking is a review of jail standards, much more than we’ve ever done before. I personally believe it is long overdue.”

Little late for Bland.

In a news conference, Warren Diepraam, Waller County’s first assistant district attorney, said that the autopsy showed that the condition of Bland’s head, neck, and hands lacked any of the telltale signs of a violent struggle, and that the markings around her neck were consistent with suicide.

“I have not seen any evidence that this is a homicide,” Diepraam said. He added that there were some abrasions on her back that might have occurred during the arrest, and abrasions on her wrists consistent with being handcuffed. 

Cops never kill anyone here.

Preliminary testing showed marijuana in her system, but he said the results of a more accurate test were still pending. 

Oh, well, there you go. Maybe that is what she was smoking.

Prosecutors said they were releasing information from the autopsy, conducted by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, because the case has drawn national attention and, in part, to dampen any suspicions.

Also to CTA.

Friends of Bland and her suburban Chicago family have said that they had no indication that she had sought to take her life, saying that she was ecstatic about her new job at the college. Her family has indicated that they would seek an independent autopsy to corroborate the findings of the one conducted by Texas officials. “We’re trying to be open in this investigation,” the Waller County district attorney, Elton Mathis, said at the news conference.

Maybe they are.

Bland’s death came three days after a traffic stop for changing lanes without signaling mushroomed into a furious confrontation with a white Texas state trooper who threatened her with a stun gun, then handcuffed and arrested her. State public safety officials have said the 30-year-old trooper, Brian T. Encinia, violated police procedures in the confrontation, and he has been moved to a desk job while state and federal inquiries are underway.

A screening form for “suicide and medical and mental impairments” completed when officials admitted Bland to the jail on July 10 indicates she said she had tried to kill herself last year with pills after losing a child, had battled depression, and was feeling depressed at the time she was entering the jail. But a second suicide questionnaire prepared hours later says that Bland had not ever been depressed and was not feeling depressed at that moment, though it does note her attempted suicide.


What did she do wrong again?

Traffic violation, right. The kind of thing where they used to just give you ticket and send you on your way.

"Hundreds bid farewell to woman who died in Texas jail cell" by the Associated Press   July 25, 2015

LISLE, Ill. — Family and friends of an Illinois woman found dead in a Texas jail remembered her Saturday as a ‘‘courageous voice’’ for social justice and promised to keep fighting for clarity on the circumstances around her death.

Hundreds of people attended Sandra Bland’s funeral near the Chicago suburb where she grew up.

Mourners, though, said they were still struggling to understand how a traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation and landed her in the cell where authorities say she killed herself three days later.

Why was she in the cell that long?

The Harris County, Texas, medical examiner’s office determined through an autopsy that Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag. The 28-year-old woman’s family has questioned the finding.

‘‘I’m going to find out what happened to my baby,’’ her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said in remarks that brought mourners to their feet.

There is already a committee reviewing it.

The traffic stop and Bland’s death have resonated across the country, with many grouping it with other prominent US cases involving confrontations between police and blacks over the past year.


RelatedSandra Bland’s family sues state trooper, wants answers

Maybe this will spice things up:

"Texas man accused of fatally shooting eight, including six children" by Juan A. Lozano Associated Press  August 10, 2015

HOUSTON — Six children and two parents were handcuffed and fatally shot in the head at a Houston home, allegedly by a man with a violent criminal history who had previously been in a relationship with the family’s mother and had a dispute with her, authorities said Sunday.

David Conley, 48, was charged with capital murder in the deaths. Conley, who is being held in Harris County Jail, did not appear at a court hearing Sunday where an arrest affidavit was read. The judge denied him bond.

The dead were identified as parents Dewayne Jackson, 50, his wife, Valerie, 40, and children Nathaniel, 13, Dewayne, 10, Honesty, 11, Caleb, 9, Trinity, 7, and Jonah, 6. Nathaniel was believed to be Conley’s son from the relationship with Valerie Jackson. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office had earlier said that there were three adults and five children killed.

‘‘We do not — cannot — fully comprehend the motivation of an individual that would take the lives of so many innocent people, especially the lives of the youngest,’’ said Chief Deputy Tim Cannon of the Harris County sheriff’s office. ‘‘The killer’s motives appear to be related to a dispute with Valerie, who was a former domestic partner.’’

Conley told authorities that he discovered Saturday morning that the locks had been changed at the home after he had moved out. He entered the house through an unlocked window, according to the affidavit.

Officers later responded to a request for a welfare check at the house and got no response at the door. They saw through a window a child on the floor with a gunshot wound. Police then heard gunshots coming from the front of the house. A standoff ensued between officers and Conley. He later surrendered to authorities and was arrested.

He's lucky he wasn't killed, and compared to other police victims, this guy looked more deserving.

Court records show that Conley’s criminal history dates back to at least 1988, with the most recent arrest last month, when was charged with assault. In court documents, authorities say the suspect had allegedly assaulted Valerie Jackson. The attack occurred at the home where the bodies were found, and court documents say he had a dating relationship with her.

Documents said Conley pushed Valerie Jackson’s head against a refrigerator multiple times after she tried to stop him from disciplining her son with a belt. The case was still pending.

Why was he free? Too many drug users in jail?

In 2013, he was charged with aggravated assault for threatening Jackson with a knife. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in the county jail.


RelatedTexas woman sent frantic text before death

Cop cars couldn't get there fast enough.

"In Texas Monday, officials said security footage taken before a college football player was fatally shot by a police officer shows the 19-year-old breaking into a car and later crashing his own vehicle into the glass showroom. Police in Arlington, Texas, said officers arriving to a burglary call found Christian Taylor roaming inside the dealership’s showroom early Friday morning. Police have said he refused to surrender and then tried to escape. The car dealership said it had no footage of the showroom."

"Police officer accused of killing unarmed Texas burglary suspect is fired" Associated Press  August 11, 2015

ARLINGTON, Texas — A police officer who killed an unarmed college football player during a suspected burglary at a Texas car dealership has been fired for mistakes that the city’s police chief said caused a deadly confrontation.

The Arlington officer, Brad Miller, 49, could also face criminal charges once police complete their investigation, Police Chief Will Johnson said.

Called to the scene of a suspected burglary early Friday morning, Miller pursued 19-year-old Christian Taylor into the dealership without telling his supervisor, Johnson said.

Miller’s field training officer heard a single pop of what he thought was Miller’s Taser, but Miller had drawn his gun and fired it at Taylor, Johnson said. He fired three more times, Johnson said.

Taylor, who was black, was a graduate of an Arlington high school and a football player at Angelo State University in West Texas. Miller is white.

Security camera footage from the dealership’s parking lots shows Taylor damaging vehicles.

‘‘It is clear from the facts obtained that Mr. Taylor was noncompliant with police demands,’’ Johnson said.

But the chief said he ultimately decided Miller’s mistakes required his firing. 

Political correctness now touching the police. 

How you gonna "secure" a country with a pussy police force?


Where is the love in Texas?

"State Attorney General Ken Paxton says a federal judge should not hold him in contempt over Texas officials initially refusing, but ultimately agreeing, to reflect the marriage of a gay couple on a death certificate."

That's contemptible.

UPDATE: Grief, memories at funeral for 8 fatally shot in Houston