bureaucracybusters

SUICIDE BY COP: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 29, 2015 at 12:17 am

There are some useful lessons to be learned from the arrest of Sandra Bland.

Lessons about how a police officer should behave toward the public.  And lessons about how the public can protect themselves from police abuse.

On July 10, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia stopped black motorist Sandra Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

The confrontation quickly escalated to unwarranted aggression and threats by Encinia and foul-mouthed, combative behavior by Bland.

Brian Encinia: I’m going to yank you out of here.

Sandra Bland: OK, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK, alright.

Encinia (calling in backup):  2547.

Bland: Let’s do this.

Encinia: Yeah, we’re going to.  (Grabs for Bland.)

Bland: Don’t touch me!

[Although Encinia is clearly angry, Bland’s refusal to exit her car was technically “resisting arrest.”  This was a charge to be fought–in court–by her attorney, not–on the street–by Bland.]

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me! I’m not under arrest–you don’t have the right to take me out of the car.

Encinia: You are under arrest!

[Once the officer says, “You are under arrest,” legally, that’s it. The arrest can be challenged later–in court.  And it may be found unwarranted–in court. But it’s useless and even dangerous to dispute a cop’s right to make an arrest on the street.]

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Brian Encinia

Bland: I’m under arrest? For what? For what? For what?

Encinia (to dispatch): 2547 county fm 1098 (inaudible) send me another unit. (To Bland) Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You’re trying to give me a ticket for failure….

Encinia: I said get out of the car!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my–

Encinia: I‘m giving you a lawful order. I’m going to drag you out of here.

Bland: So you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car?

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: And then you’re going to [crosstalk] me?

Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now!   (Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.)

Bland: Wow. Wow.  (Bland exits car.)

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Brian Encinia aiming a Taser at Sandra Bland

Encinia: Get out. Now. Get out of the car!

Bland: For a failure to signal? You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Get over there.

Bland:  Right, yeah, let’s take this to court, let’s do this.

Encinia:  Go ahead.

Bland: For a failure to signal? Yup, for a failure to signal!

Encinia: Get off the phone!

Bland: (crosstalk)

Encinia: Get off the phone! Put your phone down!

Bland: I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property. Sir?

Encinia: Put your phone down right now. Put your phone down!

(Bland slams phone down on her trunk.)

Bland: For a fucking failure to signal. My goodness. Y’all are interesting. Very interesting.

[Profanity is never helpful in a situation like this–and usually leads to further escalation.  And when the case comes to trial, it’s likely to convince a jury: “She got what she deserved.”]

Encinia: Come over here. Come over here now.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself?

Encinia: Stand right here. Stand right there.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself? For a failure to signal? You feel real good about yourself don’t you? You feel good about yourself don’t you?

[Bland would have been well-advised to remain silent–and refrain from personal attacks on a man who’s clearly shown himself over the edge.]

Encinia: Turn around. Turn around. Turn around now. Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Why can’t you–

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. I will tell you–

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around!

[Obviously, if Bland were complying with the order to “turn around,” Encinia would not be repeating it.]

Bland: Why won’t you tell me that part?

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. Turn around.

Bland: Why will you not tell me what’s going on?

Encinia: You are not complying.

Bland: I’m not complying ’cause you just pulled me out of my car.

[Bland admits that she’s “not complying.” Had she lived, this could have been used against her in court.]

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Are you fucking kidding me? This is some bull…

Encinia: Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: ‘Cause you know this straight bullshit. And you’re full of shit. Full of straight shit. That’s all y’all are is some straight scared cops. South Carolina got y’all bitch asses scared. That’s all it is. Fucking scared of a female.

[Bland is directly challenging the masculinity of a man who clearly feels he has something to prove.  Big mistake.]

SUICIDE BY COP: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

Niccolo Machiavelli offered some advice that might have saved the life of Sandra Bland.

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the lessons he offered to those seeking to gain power was this:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.

One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this. 

When confronted by an armed and–in this case, egocentric–law enforcement officer, it’s always best to imitate the fox.

Black motorist Sandra Bland didn’t understand this truth.  Or, if she did, she flagrantly ignored it–to her own destruction.

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

Bland, born in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, had just arrived in Texas to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, outside Hempstead, Waller County.

In January, 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook, denouncing racism and police brutality.  In one she wrote: “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.”

On July 10, Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia.

FULL VIDEO OF SANDRA BLAND TRAFFIC STOP – YouTube

Their exchange was recorded on the dashcam video of Encinia’s police car, and has been transcribed by the Huffington Post’s Matt Ramos and Dhyana Taylor.

My own commentary on what happened is given in blue italics.

Brian Encinia: Hello ma’am. We’re the Texas Highway Patrol and the reason for your stop is because you failed to signal the lane change. Do you have your driver’s license and registration with you? What’s wrong? How long have you been in Texas?

Sandra Bland: Got here just today.

Encinia: OK. Do you have a driver’s license? (Pause) OK, where you headed to now? Give me a few minutes.

(Bland inaudible)

(Encinia returns to his car for several minutes, then approaches Bland again.)

Encinia: OK, ma’am.  You OK?

Bland: I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on you. When’re you going to let me go?

[A better–that is, safer–answer would have been: “I’m fine.”  And then to say nothing until the officer responds.]

Encinia: I don’t know, you seem very really irritated.

Bland: I am. I really am. I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me. So yeah, I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so [inaudible] ticket.

[Bland may have been correct.  But accusing the officer of improperly stopping her was a mistake from the get-go. No cop is going to admit he made a mistake in stopping someone–especially a cop as clearly aggressive as Encinia quickly proved to be.]

Encinia: Are you done?

Bland: You asked me what was wrong, now I told you.

Encinia: OK.

Bland: So now I’m done, yeah.

Encinia: You mind putting out your cigarette, please? If you don’t mind?

Bland: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?

[The smart thing would have been to put out the cigarette. Even though the trooper said “please,” this was clearly an order.]

Encinia: Well you can step on out now.

[This was clearly the point where Encinia decided to take action–to give her a warning, a ticket, or make an arrest  For most of the encounter, he doesn’t say which.]

Bland: I don’t have to step out of my car.

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: Why am I–?

Encinia: Step out of the car!

[It’s standard procedure for officers to order drivers to exit their cars before they write tickets or citations. The reason: The danger that the motorist might drive off–or even use the car as a weapon.]

Bland: No, you don’t have the right. No, you don’t have the right.

[Telling a policeman he doesn’t have the right to make an arrest is like telling a judge he doesn’t have the right to make a ruling.  Both are certain to land you in trouble.]

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this.

Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you.

[Even if the officer’s forthcoming actions are later ruled improper by a judge, he has the legal right at that time to enforce compliance with his orders.]

Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order.  Get out of the car now or I’m going to remove you.

Bland: And I’m calling my lawyer.

[Bland would have done better to simply get out of the car, submit to arrest, and then call her lawyer when she reached the police station.]

HOW TO END THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2015 at 12:10 am

According to The Mass Shooting Tracker, a project of Guns Are Cool, there have been 204 mass shooting events in the United States so far in 2015.

There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far – The Washington Post

There were

  • 18 mass shootings in April;
  • 39 in May;
  • and 41 in June.

July has been a particularly busy month for those seeking the title of “NRA Poster Boy”: 34 mass shootings so far–and the month isn’t over yet.

So what should the surviving victims of these rampages do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Three things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians–-with rare exceptions–-have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

Second, don’t expect the mental health profession to prevent such future tragedies.

There is simply no definitive way to predict who is likely to commit mass murder.

And even if such a method were developed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional.  A person can’t be jailed or hospitalized for fear of what he might do.

Third, those who survived these rampages–-and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t–-should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.

  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.
  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.

  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs.  In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.
  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program–thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence–and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it.  Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA–-like the tobacco industry–-will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of slaughters that could have been prevented.

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