Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Why one should watch the fifty-two-minute dashcam video

I don’t know what to make of anomalies or edits in the dashcam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest. But I think I know what to make of the encounter that precedes the arrest. That encounter can be seen at the start of the fifty-two-minute dashcam video. I would suggest watching before this video disappears.

The start of the video shows the final moments of trooper Brian Encinia’s encounter with another driver, a college student. I have transcribed Encinia’s words:

“You’re gonna need to see if you can get with your dad. He can give that, uh, send you an e-mail or something, you know what I mean? Get that copy of the insurance, okay? You okay? [Laughs.] This here is a warning: there is no fine, there is no penalty, but you just need to follow the posted speed limit, okay? What year are you here at school? Sophomore? You here for summer school, or? Taking a lot of classes? Just two? Okay. Here’s a copy of the warning. There’s no fine, no penalty, okay? And there’s your driver’s license, all right? Be careful, all right?”
Consider: he has stopped a driver for speeding, a driver who turns out to have no proof of insurance. And yet Encinia is a model of tact. He’s even chatty. He lets the driver off with a warning. He repeats, no fine, no penalty — for speeding and no proof of insurance.

Why Encinia takes such a different approach in his encounter with Sandra Bland has to remain a matter for speculation. It would help to know something about that first driver. She (I think it’s a young woman) speaks three audible words — “sophomore,” “just two.” Who is she? Why did she merit such different treatment? I want to ask to a simple question: was that first driver white?

The fifty-two-minute video also makes clear that Sandra Bland changed lanes for a reason. A police car was coming up behind her with increasing speed. She did what any driver in that situation would be likely to do: she got out of the way. Or tried to.

comments: 8

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Thank you for including the text of the previous stop. I thought I was watching the full video but apparently not. It's dangerous to speculate, I know, but I get the feeling that he was enjoying his masculine big-guy-to-the-rescue act with the first driver, and punishing Sandra Bland with the most evil aspects of that I'm-so-powerful character when she didn't play along. And in my view, racist behavior often draws upon that...what I was about to call machismo.

Michael Leddy said...

That’s certainly how it looks to me. I can’t help seeing the speeding up behind Bland’s car as the beginning of another mind game. If she speeds us, she’s in trouble. If she changes lanes without signaling, she’s in trouble. I can’t recall ever signaling when getting out of the way for a police car.

I don’t know how I came across the longer video, but I’m glad I did. I think more people should be talking about it.

Diane Schirf said...

I am disturbed by the U turn and the off-camera action.

Michael Leddy said...

I just now realized that it’s Sandra Bland turning right after the first driver turns left. Is he making the U-turn to follow her?

Anonymous said...

We can assume with 98% accuracy that she was not white. If she was a sophmore at the college, the enrollment demographics would presume she was black.

Also Bland clearly runs a stop sign while failing to signal her right turn. These 2 violations folowed by a 3rd seconds later certainly warrented being pulled over.

Michael Leddy said...

Looking at the most recent enrollment statistics shows that African-American students are 82% of the student body at Prairie View A & M. How that lets one determine whether a given student is African-American is beyond me. Whatever the identity of the first driver, the difference in Encinia’s tone is unmistakable. I’d add that any member of law enforcement should seek to defuse antagonism, not stoke it. If Encinia was in fact giving Bland a warning, as he later claims, why didn’t he say so when it would have been helpful? When Bland says she’s getting a ticket for getting out of the way (which, as I’ve written, is what I think she was doing), why does Encinia respond with “Are you done?” and not “Ma’am, you’re not getting a ticket”?

Did you watch the video or read the transcript? Encinia tells Bland that he’s stopping her for failing to signal while changing lanes  . He says nothing about the stop sign. I’m not sure what your third violation is: all commentary I’ve read suggests that a driver has a legal right to smoke in her or his car. Encinia could argue that Bland’s smoking was interfering with police business. (See this brief analysis.) But it’s hard to see any genuine basis for that claim. And what reason, other than his own anger, does Encinia have for ordering Bland to step out of the car? She’s been stopped (dubiously, I believe) for a failure to signal.

An article in today’s New York Times about life in Prairie View gives some context for what happened in this case. The article includes a brief account of a uniformed office (African-American) being pulled over for forty-five minutes for a check of his license plate. The dangers of driving while black — which I know of not from my own experience but from many accounts — are real.

Michael Leddy said...

I didn’t realize that you were counting the stop sign and turn as two violations. So from your point of view, yes, the lane change is a third.

Diane Schirf said...

I didn't watch the 52 minutes (edited?), but it does look like the U turn is to pursue. If everyone who didn't stop at the sign by my building were stopped, there'd be cars piled up on the corner.