On Thursday Afternoon, July 16th, Sheriff R. Glenn Smith received a copy of a Special Inspection Report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. It was determined that deficiencies exist. They were as follows:
Item 1: “Country officials were unable to provide written documentation to prove that all jail staff underwent two (2) hours of training on a yearly basis by the local mental health authority for that region in accordance with their approved Mental Disabilities/Suicide Prevention Plan on file with TCJS. This training is to include the recognition, supervision, documentation and handling of inmates who are mentally disable and/or potentially suicidal.”
Item 2: “Documentation received and reviewed by the Commission revealed that Waller County is not completed visual face to face observation of all inmates at least once every 60 minutes as required by Minimum Jail Standards.”
The approximate 8:00AM contact with inmate Sandra Bland was on the intercom system and not in person, as required. While both jailers have received mental health training it has not been done in the past year by the local health authority as stated in our own policy.
At this time we have no reason to believe that either of these deficiencies had any part in the death of Ms. Bland. However, Sheriff R. Glenn Smith will not tolerate disregarding policies and/or rules of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, along with our own. As previously stated, we will be working on any improvements that can be made to see that this type of tragic incident never happens again. This will include personnel changes if needed. Specific details of Ms. Bland’s booking information cannot be released at this time [sic].
Trooper Encinia has since been placed on administrative leave for violating what the Texas Department of Public Safety calls “the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.” Not to mention this pesky thing called the Constitution.
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced an investigation into Bland’s death in conjunction with the FBI and the Texas Rangers. The District Attorney has announced he intends to convene a grand jury once the investigation is complete.
Title 5, Chapter 19, Section 19.01 of the Texas Penal Code states that “A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.” Criminal homicide is described as “murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.” Section 19.05 defines criminally negligent homicide as an offense causing the death of a person by criminal negligence.
Failing to signal a lane change is not punishable by arrest. Bland’s death is a categorical result of trumped-up charges of assault on a police officer. She was in her car; how could she possibly have assaulted Trooper Encinia? As we can see from the dashcam of Encinia’s cruiser, she did not. First, he claims she is under arrest for resisting arrest and then once she is detained, she is charged with assault on a police officer? This defies all logic and doesn’t make any sense at all. It almost seems like Encinia was just winging it and making things up as he went along. Sandra Bland was unlawfully detained and illegally arrested by Trooper Encinia. That Encinia was suspended is a prima facie admission by the Texas Department of Public Safety of his negligent actions throughout the entirety of the traffic stop. This is the textbook definition of Texas Penal Code Title 5, Chapter 19, Section 19.05. Encinia was derelict in his duties which directly resulted in the death of Sandra Bland.
It would not be unprecedented for the District Attorney to bring charges against Trooper Encinia. As mentioned above, six Baltimore police officers have been indicted on charges ranging from depraved-heart murder to manslaughter to second-degree assault regarding the death of Freddy Gray. All were indicted for reckless endangerment and misconduct in office, as well. Confidence in police is at its lowest point since the Rodney King trials in 1993. This is not indicative of a venerable democracy that the United States is expected to be.
The purpose of this post is not to bash police or incite anti-police sentiment. Police officers lay their lives on the line to protect the communities they serve and dozens die in the line of duty each year. The work they do is inherently dangerous. This does not, however, grant them cart blanche to ride head-and-shoulders above the law. We can revere the work of law-enforcement officials while at the same time holding them to higher standards. These are not and must not be mutually exclusive concepts. In this case, however, the evidence is clear; Sandra Bland deserves justice.
The above is a republication from Human First, a human-rights-themed blog focusing on human rights issues across the globe.