What the Sandra Bland Act Would Look Like

Texas House committee report lays foundation for ‘Sandra Bland Act

 What the Sandra Bland Act Would Look Like. The Sandra Bland Act would address race, poverty, mental health and accountability in law enforcement and corrections, its author says.

Article written by JOHNATHAN SILVER from the Texas Tribune.

What the Sandra Bland Act Would Look Like

What the Sandra Bland Act Would Look Like

Fourteen recommendations in the Texas House County Affairs Committee’s recent report to lawmakers – including calls for them to increase police officer training for de-escalation and mental health awareness, to back jail-to-treatment diversion programs, and eliminate consent searches during stops – will be the foundation for the Sandra Bland Act.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, announced last year that he would file the bill to address race, poverty, mental health and accountability in law enforcement and corrections.

In 2015, former Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia stopped Sandra Bland in Prairie View after she failed to signal a lane change. Bland’s conversation with the arresting officer became heated, and she was arrested for assaulting a public servant.

Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois woman, was found dead in her Waller County Jail cell three days after her arrest, sparking concerns about jail conditions and outrage across the country. Her death has been ruled a suicide by hanging.

Though it’s legal, it doesn’t make sense for someone to be arrested because of a traffic violation or for a stop like Bland’s to escalate into an arrest, Coleman said.

What the Sandra Bland Act Would Look Like

“If you look at Sandra Bland, the incident that led to her death – that’s all you have to look at,” said Coleman, who was the County Affairs chairman last session. Committee assignments for the 2017 session have not been announced.

If a driver’s tail light is out, or they cross over the yellow line, no matter how briefly, “the law says they are jailable offenses, so we have to remove that from the statute,” Coleman said.

“[Encinia] was well within his right to (arrest Bland), and that’s where we’re running into the problem,” he said. “It’s baked in the cake. Injustice is baked into the cake.”

Other proposals from the committee include eliminating consent searches and raising the threshold for stops to something higher than the current “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion.”

Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, said his organization would oppose such changes.

Though it’s legal, it doesn’t make sense for someone to be arrested because of a traffic violation or for a stop like Bland’s to escalate into an arrest, Coleman said.

“If you look at Sandra Bland, the incident that led to her death – that’s all you have to look at,” said Coleman, who was the County Affairs chairman last session. Committee assignments for the 2017 session have not been announced.

If a driver’s tail light is out, or they cross over the yellow line, no matter how briefly, “the law says they are jailable offenses, so we have to remove that from the statute,” Coleman said.

“[Encinia] was well within his right to (arrest Bland), and that’s where we’re running into the problem,” he said. “It’s baked in the cake. Injustice is baked into the cake.”

Other proposals from the committee include eliminating consent searches and raising the threshold for stops to something higher than the current “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion.”

Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, said his organization would oppose such changes.

“They do regular walkthroughs,” Lambert said. “And to employ a drug dog seems sensible.”

Encinia faces a perjury charge after a Waller County grand jury identified a discrepancy between what his official report says about why Bland stepped out of her car and what dashboard camera footage shows.

The anti-perjury proposal “would change the culture of policing,” Lambert said. “That protects good officers from bad officers because the good officers can say ‘No, I can’t lie for you.'”

 

About Quianna Canada

Quianna Canada is an anti-police brutality activist, author, and opinion writer living in the United States.
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