Sandra Bland and Sam DuBose: Two Different Outcomes

The officer that arrested Sandra Bland isn’t responsible for her death. As of now, all evidence points to her death as being a suicide. However, what is perfectly clear – thanks to the newly released dashcam video – is, that there was no probable cause to arrest her. For that, he should be held accountable. Particularly, because he lied in his initial report as to how the traffic stop and arrest played out.

Yes, he lied.

It could be argued that Sandra Bland would still be alive if she was never arrested. Which, may be a natural stance for one to take. But again, for now, the focus should be on the violation of her rights; and, it should be used as a teachable moment. Why? Because if we continue to walk away from these stories without learning anything – other than that some cops lie – then I’d say that we’ll forever be in trouble.

Look, it’s important to know your rights. Equally as important is knowing how to articulate and exercise your rights in any encounter or exchange with law enforcement. That should be the only thing that comes out of your mouth in situations when you encounter the police. How or the manner by which you choose to do so is totally up to you. However, I would advise anyone reading this to do so in a calm and respectful manner. Not that to do so will determine whether you’re arrested or not. But, nonetheless, let’s just say that doing so helps to make what for many exists as a very tense situation with much suspicion and implicit biases on both sides of the fence.

This may sound like victim-blaming, but it isn’t. That is unless you’re content to walk away not learning tools that could be the difference between life and death. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing this stuff in the media without the proper discussion of the rights of citizens involved in police encounters. Which is sad, because you shouldn’t have to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU to understand.

And, if this bothers you like it does me, just imagine how many times similar situations play out across the country without ever making the news. Sandra Bland being dead of an apparent suicide should not be yet another one of those squandered moments.

We can march and protest all we like until our feet fall off. But, until we start teaching people that they have a constitutional right to never talk to the police – yes, it’s called the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – or, answer questions from police officers without an attorney present. Then and only then can we have conversations about police accountability without having silly debates about the behavior of citizens like Sandra Bland, over whether it contributed to her demise when the issue happens to be overzealous lying ass cops with a penchant for abusing their authority.

To be honest, Sandra Bland’s “attitude” didn’t lead to her demise. Instead, it was her failure to follow a lawful command per the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Pennsylvania v. Mimms to exit her car that as probable cause for her arrest. Yes, Sandra Bland had every right to voice her displeasure with the officer in whatever manner prior to being ordered to exit her car. But make no mistake, though it may be hard to say amid all the noise, that’s the reason Sandra Bland was arrested.

Her arrest had nothing to do with her refusal to put out her cigarette when she was asked by the officer. And yes, she was asked and not commanded to put out her cigarette. The officer made a request, and she was within her right, at that point, to refuse to acquiesce. To some this may have seemed like a big no, but it isn’t.

Having said hat, as a person of color, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the importance of not talking to the police, or answering any of their questions. It’s important to allow them to do their jobs while keeping your mouth shut during a traffic stop except to ask, “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?” If you feel the need to challenge the conduct and actions of an officer, you’re better off doing it by filing a complaint with his superiors – or even filing a lawsuit – rather than having an argument about it in the street. Nine times out of ten, should you choose to do the later, you will lose.

Because there will not always be someone with a camera-phone or even a working police body cam around it’s important to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always keep your hands where they can be seen – make no sudden moves
  • Never completely roll your window down
  • If asked to exit your car, be sure to lock your doors after doing so
  • Do not consent to a search – they have to ask you
  • Most importantly, keep your mouth shut

Moving along…

ray-tensing-sam-dubose-sandra-blandBy now I’m sure you’ve seen the video of Sam DuBose being killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tersing. As was the case in the murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina, thanks to video evidence, we now know that like the officer, in that case, this officer has also lied about the incident. What we also know is that at least two other officers on the scene have also lied under oath to a grand jury.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, because of video evidence, the truth of this incident is out. Without it, it would have been easy to sweep the death of Sam DuBose under the rug. Without video evidence, Sam DuBose would have been just another thug who had to be killed because he posed an imminent threat to the life of a police officer.

Because of video, we now know that the officer lied.

Additionally, we can see clearly – thanks to the video – that Sam DuBose didn’t have an “attitude”, nor was he belligerent when he communicated with the officer. So yes, because of this, it can be argued that whether or not one gives a cop “attitude” like Sandra Bland, for people of color the outcome always seems to b the same. That would be, that we’ll always end up dead or in jail. It’s a rather cynical position, to be sure.

However, it is for this very reason why a change in policy beyond the use of body cams is necessary. Without the appointment of citizen review boards with full subpoena powers, there’d be no oversight and accountability.

And, of course, we cannot afford to have situations like the ongoing extra-judicial execution of citizens of any color, by the police, to continue. At some point, the change we seek has to go beyond angry social media outbursts, and disruptions by protestors in public spaces. It’s one thing to get the attention of the world if only for a moment.

However, it’s another thing to propose specific policy positions, for which we can hold the feet of politicians on the state and local level to the fire.Without it, there’ll be more stories like these for the media to pimp for profit; and for bloggers like myself to write about. Frankly speaking, I’m sick of it all. The silly conspiracy theories about dead people in mugshots. The debates about personal responsibility. The fight over whether the killing of an African lion is more important than that of cops killing black people.

Yes, I’m fucking sick of it all.

Now watch the following video and learn something: