I think every job has people who are attracted to it for the wrong reasons. We are no longer surprised to learn that pedophiles seek out positions that put them in contact with young people. Some journalists are, yes, showboating dicks (although I’ve found they are more likely to be concentrated in television). And some cops are, let’s face it, bullies.

You know that law enforcement has been having a bad year or two. Many of them blame rabble-rousers; I credit the smartphone. But as incident after incident piles up, the evidence becomes more galling. The ranks of police, or “LEOs” in the current parlance (that’s law enforcement officers) are well-stocked with jerks who will take any opportunity to grind a boot in your face just because he can. I’ve seen it myself, and before we go any further, I’ll stipulate that yes, many are heroes and many more enter the force with noble intentions but are worn down by the constant barrage of human cruelty they see on a near-daily basis. There are support systems for those LEOs, but I’m sure few if any are perfect. I’m equally sure that cops may have a spoken or unspoken cultural bias against asking for help, for the usual reasons. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.

I saw the tape of the Sandra Bland arrest — the original is nearly an hour long, and this story contains a fair distillation of around 7 minutes — and it’s pretty clear we’re dealing with a bad apple here. The cop comes up behind Bland, she moves to the right to let him pass, and he stops her for failing to signal a lane change. Bland does not hide her displeasure. He tells her she seems irritated; she says she is. “Are you done?” he asks, with that me-cop-you-not condescension some of them like to deploy, and it’s all downhill from there. Bland does not go quietly, and swears lustily, and at this point I don’t care if she called upon all the souls in hell to help her. She was right to be pissed; it was a bullshit stop. She wasn’t operating erratically. Traffic was light, she didn’t cause a near-miss collision. She didn’t turn on her signal, a crime committed approximately 90 zillion times a day all over the country (often by police). If this guy came to Detroit he would get all the action he wanted on that offense without going half a mile from the station.

I don’t dislike police, really I don’t. But I’m wondering why, when these things happen, the thin blue line rarely speaks up. If these incidents have taught us anything, it’s that an officer has to be caught red-handed by someone with a phone, a good camera angle and the smarts to get away clean for them to face any sort of discipline in these cases. How often are prosecutors willing to come down hard on police, upon whom they depend for the convictions that keep them in their jobs? The evidence has to be overwhelming. And even when it is, the rule of law essentially says we understand how hard it is to do this job, and sometimes mistakes are made. Eric Garner, choked to death, no charge. They have latitude, and lots of it, to make decisions under duress, and they’re rarely held to serious account when things go wrong.

But just once, I want an officer to be able to hand over a ticket to a pissed-off black woman, or any other person, without demanding all that yes-sir-officer crap in the bargain. Any stop by the police pretty much ruins your day; a ticket can ruin your spending-money budget for a month or more. Bland knew this was b.s., took the bait and her life circled the drain. Three days later she’d be dead. I’m thoroughly, thoroughly sick of this shit. I want police to police themselves.

What Gin & Tacos said.

One more item, and then I’m out: Are you ready for your car to be hacked? You better be.

Posted at 12:23 am in Current events |

78 responses to “Bullies.”

  1. Brandon said on July 23, 2015 at 12:28 am

    One more item, and then I’m out: Are you ready for your car to be hacked? You better be.

    Not to mention the drones rigged to fire guns.

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  2. David C. said on July 23, 2015 at 5:58 am

    Cops will never police themselves. It just isn’t in the DNA. But I’m not sure what will work. Even civilian review boards, from what I’ve heard, aren’t effective. Maybe strict US DoJ oversight of all police departments? But that would, like everything else, probably only work under a Democratic administration. I just don’t know.

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  3. Suzanne said on July 23, 2015 at 6:46 am

    My son was pulled over a few years ago for doing a Clifornia stop at an intersection. I think he got a warning, but he said the cop asked why he was so nervous. When he told he it was because he’d never been stopped before, all was well. But I can’t help but think what could have happened with a less nice officer or if he was not white. Scary stuff.
    I understand that every cop has to look at every traffic stop as a potential nut with a gun because it happens & that they have to be on their guard all the time, so I give them some slack, but it is frightening. I’ve been pulled over a few times (lead foot) but it’s scary. What if I say or do the wrong thing from ignorance?

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  4. Deborah said on July 23, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Driving back from O’Hare last week we saw a state police car on the highway, the LEO at the wheel was texting while driving, serious texting not just sneaking a peek at his phone once in awhile. He also changed lanes over and over without signaling. I wish I had the sense to get my phone out and start videoing him, I didn’t think of it at the time.

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  5. coozledad said on July 23, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Sandra Bland was likely in possession of documentation showing she was part of Black Lives Matter. That set off officer Encinia’s escalation protocols.

    The sheriff of the town where bland was illegally arrested, beaten and unlawfully detained has a known history of racism:

    This is an ass pimple town and they’ve had two “suicides” in their jail within three space of three years.

    What you’ve got in Waller county is a bunch of resentful trash with badges and a killing station. This department should be the focus of a comprehensive federal investigation, and its employees should be relieved of duty pending its conclusion.

    Whoever hired Sheriff Glenn Smith needs to be tried for manslaughter.

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  6. Jeff Borden said on July 23, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Most professions will rally around their members when attacked by the public, but police officers often take it to a much higher level. Many believe someday they will need the support of their brother officers and want to be seen as a “stand up guy” so they remain silent. It can produce some pretty sickening shit.

    The video of a huge Chicago cop beating the shit out of a 110-pound bartender because she would not sere him more because he was already drunk –I mean punching and kicking her violently– was an Internet sensation and rightly caused enormous outrage. When the offender was finally arrested, his brother cops parked their cruisers in such a way that TV and print photographers could not get any shots of the creep being perp walked to the car. Think about that for a moment. This big lug was all over YouTube bashing this young woman, yet they wanted to furnish him with some privacy as he went off to the pokey. . .bullies standing shoulder to shoulder with the ultimate big bully.

    I’ve read so many comments by white people about how we should all just shut up and do whatever Officer Friendly says and we’ll be okay, but none of us have a clue about what it is like to drive while black. Maybe this traffic stop was just the latest harassment Ms. Bland endured and she finally popped off in frustration and rage.

    Death dealing cops are just another example of American exceptionalism. Check out the records of law enforcement officers killing people in other countries –even in China– and be sickened by how few deaths occur. As someone above noted, I also blame the prevalence of guns for making cops paranoid, but if this is the world in which we live, it’s time we started training these people better.

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  7. Jolene said on July 23, 2015 at 8:44 am

    “Sandra Bland was likely in possession of documentation showing she was part of Black Lives Matter. That set off officer Encinia’s escalation protocols.”

    That seems implausible. The video indicates that the situation escalated almost immediately, before he could have seen or, even less likely, read whatever materials were in her car.

    If there had been a bumper sticker or she was wearing a T-shirt with that message, that would make sense, but it looks to me like they triggered each other’s worst instincts, and things went from bad to worse quickly.

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  8. Heather said on July 23, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Yeah, he could have just let her go after she said she was irritated. She’s not combative, not rageful, but irritated. And she was only answering his question, “You OK?” She didn’t give him the “right” answer. Exactly, Jeff Borden, all of these white people don’t get that for black people the only “right” answer is meek subservience and possible humiliation. It’s a different story for us. And I find it so upsetting that so many people refuse to even entertain the thought that that might be true. White privilege is blinding, indeed.

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  9. Dave said on July 23, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I really don’t understand why this happened. One account says he tailgated her for a distance before stopping her. Simply harassment stepped up to a intense level. Big me, little (black) you.

    I really don’t much care for cops, even though as a aging white male, I’ve had very few encounters with them. Still, the one who harassed my then-16 year old, new driver, son over failing to dim his headlights and gave him a costly ticket (near the end of the month, making it even more suspicious) and the two cops who completely screwed over my other son in Miami, have done nothing but reinforce my dismal view of cops. Oh, and a couple of work-related incidents when they thought trains ought to operate somehow like motor vehicles.

    One moving violation in my life, driving the wrong way on the beach in Florida, there was no explaining that we’d gotten hung up in sand and turned around because we saw no other way to get off the beach.

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  10. Jolene said on July 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Senate hearings on Iran anti-nuke deal beginning now on CSPAN3. Just in case you’re in the mood for some mid-day bloviating.

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  11. Jeff Borden said on July 23, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I was stopped this winter by an unmarked Chicago police car carrying two plainclothes cops. My offense was having a clear plastic cover over my license plate, which is against state law. (Apparently, the numbnuts in Springfield believe these covers are used to defeat red light cameras.) The fine was $75 and I was late to my class because they took so long writing the frigging ticket. They were polite if curt, but then, I was a 64-year-old white guy wearing a suit and driving a sedan.

    The use of police officers as revenue generating tools is truly perverse and it sure doesn’t do anything to burnish the view of cops. I held my tongue because I knew I already was going to be late and figured if I mouthed off, they would truly take their sweet time in writing me up. But did I want to scream? You bet. I was driving safely. . .my car was properly licensed and titled. . .I had my precious proof of insurance card. . .and I was stopped for this kind of chickenshit crap?

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 23, 2015 at 10:27 am

    He’s got what our probation officers call SPS, “small penis syndrome.” Sadly, a few of our female officers in the county have it, strange as that may seem.

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  13. Bitter Scribe said on July 23, 2015 at 10:32 am

    When my cousin in Texas was a teenager and a new driver, he was behind the wheel with his mother in the passenger seat when he got pulled over.

    The officer told my aunt to make sure her son always kept his hands on the wheel during a traffic stop because “he looks Mexican.” (He’s of Greek descent, like me, but with olive skin and black curly hair.)

    What struck them both was the matter-of-fact tone the cop took, like this was the most natural concern in the world.

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  14. Julie Robinson said on July 23, 2015 at 10:51 am

    There are many, many bad cops, but there are also many, many good cops. The nature of the news media means they don’t get the same kind of publicity as the miscreants.

    There were several police families at my kids’ school and as I got to know them I saw what a hard job it was (low pay, low respect, shift work, etc.) I also saw how hard it is on the spouses. At a sports event, an officer was called out on a shooting, and his wife’s face went ashen. Before that I hadn’t grasped the daily uncertainty they lived with every day.

    My sense now is that police feel under attack. People are walking up to their cars and shooting them point blank. They’re called to unstable situations where the likelihood of injury is high. They feel the glare of close attention, and know anyone they pull over may already be ready for confrontation.

    This is not to say there aren’t a lot of bad actors out there, but reality is more nuanced.

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  15. adrianne said on July 23, 2015 at 10:55 am

    That Sandra Bland videotape is simply infuriating. There was absolutely no reason for the situation to escalate to the point where she’s being Tasered and shoved into a car for a trip to jail. The cop was looking to provoke her, no question.

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  16. Deborah said on July 23, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Cops aren’t the only ones who can turn into assholes when they get a little power. This incident is sort of related to this thread. Little Bird made a dentist appointment when I was still in Santa Fe and I was right near her when she was on the phone making it. She said the date and time a couple of times and I made a mental note that it was going to be at a time I wasn’t going to be in town so I wouldn’t be able to drive her there. So she took the bus on the day of the appointment and when she got there they told her the appointment was for the following week not that day. But I know that couldn’t have been the case because I will be back there on that date and would be able to drive her there. She’s on Medicaid as I’ve said here before and we think they were giving her the run around because they got backed up or something. They figured they could blow her off and it would be no big deal for them. The sad thing about it is that for many people with Medicaid it could have been a real hardship to even get to the dentist’s office. Little Bird was perfectly capable of taking the bus, but what if she wasn’t? Anyway, it made me mad when Little Bird called and told me what happened. She felt sheepish about getting the date wrong, but I know she didn’t get it wrong. Anyway, sorry for the long story, just a small example of the many indignities people in power lord over people not in power.

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  17. Jolene said on July 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

    It’s infuriating all around. Over the years, I’ve been stopped by cops plenty, for speeding, for having a light out, for allowing my registration to get out of date. Of course, I knew I was in the wrong and had no reason to argue. But, even if I felt I had been wronged and, as in this case, the cop was being an asshole, I can’t imagine ever unleashing the tirade of sarcasm and profanity shown in this tape. How could that help?

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  18. Icarus said on July 23, 2015 at 11:12 am

    so it turns out that a co-worker of mine is a close relative of Sandra Bland. We had a little — I don’t know what you would call it — thing for her yesterday in our break room. The thing is, our company is going through a Managed Services Due Diligence (we are outsourcing our IT dept which Close Relative is indirectly part of).

    So not only has Close Relative been having a bad summer, but now this crap comes her way.

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  19. Joe K said on July 23, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Just saying
    Pilot Joe

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  20. MichaelG said on July 23, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Law suits, law suits and more law suits. I’ve seen it work. When the city or the county takes a few million dollar hits because of bad cops it gets their attention in a way nothing else grabs it. Also daylight in the form of all those videos.

    I’ve seen all the horrible Sandra Bland videos but in the end one thing grabs me. She was in jail for three days before she died. Three days. For what? What’s wrong with these people?

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  21. MichaelG said on July 23, 2015 at 11:56 am

    “Just saying.” Whatever does that mean? I’ve seen that before. What does “Just saying” mean?

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  22. Sherri said on July 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Okay, Pilot Joe. Cops are killed by firearms, all situations, at a rate of about 50 a year. Cops are killed in the line of duty at a rate of about 125 a year, with traffic accidents being the other major cause.

    There are no official tallies of civilians killed by police, for obvious reasons, but here’s a site that tracts news reports of civilians killed by police, justifiable and otherwise, and found 1104 in 2014: https://www.facebook.com/KilledByPolice

    Just saying.

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  23. Heather said on July 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Just saying . . . that the Texas cop had reason to force Sandra Bland out of her car when all she was doing was smoking a cigarette?

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  24. Kirk said on July 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Julie Robinson@14:
    ” … reality is more nuanced.”

    That viewpoint is way too scarce around here.

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  25. beb said on July 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Nancy must be psychic because I’ve been seething for the past two days over a ticket I got in my driveway. Apparently I was driving the last block to my house too fast. How fast, I don’t know. The ticket doesn’t say, only some stuff about ‘basic speed and reckless driving.’ The ticket was printed out on a long strip of paper like a grocery receipt. While it’s clarity is admirable, it’s vagueness towards my offense is a tad disturbing, as if I do not need to know what I’m being charge with.

    It was also a little disturbing that the passenger side cop got out first and walked up to the side of my car before the driver side cop left their vehicle. Well, this is Detroit, but its still creepy.

    So at the moment I have nothing good to say about cops. they’re not good about preventing crime, not particularly good about solving crimes and tend to blame the victim for not seeing the crime about to happen in advance.

    One thing about the Sandra Bland dash-cam video is that it appears to have been edited before release. So everybody, the cops, the DA are lying about what happened to her. And, sad;y, even good video does not mean cops will be punished for their criminal actions, as the Eric Garner case proves. In fact, the man who took the video has been harassed by the police ever since.

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  26. john not mccain said on July 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    If there really were so “many, many good cops” then there wouldn’t be so “many, many bad cops.” Part of the definition of being a good cop is not covering up for the psychothugs. Therefore, the bad cops obviously outnumber the good.

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  27. nancy said on July 23, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    When Right to Work passed in Michigan, I said to myself that the people interested in taking the stuffing out of unions would likely have the most luck with state employees, teachers (some) and other white-collar workers. The blue-collar unions? Not so much. As Dexter and others have pointed out multiple times, one of the things unions do is make sure everyone in a workplace is properly trained, and that you don’t want to work in a place where poorly prepared amateurs are operating heavy equipment. In the work on our street the other day, I watched a guy operating some sort of bulldozer in a tight space, on a steep angle, spreading gravel. I reflected how easily a machine that size could be overturned, and that I hoped he knew what he was doing.

    Do I think a profit-watching manager would put a guy who was iffy on a forklift into a warehouse? Unfortunately, yes. If I were a steelworker, climbing around on a structure under construction, many floors up, would I want to be the guy who isn’t paying his dues? Hell no.

    I’m sure police are the same way. As Jeff said upthread, you rely on your colleagues to have your back. Do you want to be the guy who spoke up about the drunk bully marking time to retirement? Probably not.

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  28. coozledad said on July 23, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    This isn’t someone who is preparing to commit suicide. They killed her. too many discrepancies in the forms she supposedly filled out at the station, hamhandedly edited stop footage and now this:

    In the voicemail message, obtained and aired by ABC News, Bland’s voice sounds calm but frustrated.

    “Hey this is me. I just was able to see the judge…They have me set at a $5,000 bond. I’m still just at a loss for words, honestly, about this whole process, how switching lanes with no turn signal turn into all this? I don’t even know. But I’m still here, so, I guess call me back when you can.”

    They fucking killed her.

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  29. Jolene said on July 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    MichaelG, she was charged with assault, and bail was set at $5000. That would have meant that she or someone else would have had to come up with $500 to be released. Apparently, she didn’t have the money, and no one was able or willing to give it to her. The assault charge was, of course, a consequence of her altercation with the cop, which, it seems, he could have prevented. In any case, it was the assault charge, not the traffic offense that put her in jail.

    She did make several phone calls, including to at least one family member. If you google “Sandra Bland bail”, you’ll find several accounts of what’s happened so far with this case. This one, published on a conservative web site, indicates that she had quite a history of driving infractions.

    Some of the articles I looked at say that her family was trying to put the money together. In TV appearances, they don’t seem poverty-stricken, but who knows? It may be that they had pulled her out if the fire on previous occasions and weren’t eager to do it again. But, again, who knows?

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  30. coozledad said on July 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Waller Sheriff’s department story unravelling. The Texas Rangers have probably got a witness now:

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  31. Jolene said on July 23, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    “They fucking killed her.”

    Cooz, I think you are getting way ahead of the evidence. Trust me, I know from close personal experience that it is possible for a person to have many favorable features in her life–a new job, friends, caring family members–and for that person to nonetheless feel, when faced with some bad event or outcome, that the bottom has fallen out, and further struggle is not worthwhile.

    Many, many people are much more fragile than they appear to be. Did you see the video in which she described her depression?

    Note that I’m not, in any way, defending the cop. He could have prevented the sequence of events that led to her death, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t, at bottom, an unstable individual who took her own life.

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  32. Jeff Borden said on July 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Perhaps we can ship all these trigger-happy, authoritarian cops off to Iran soon. It seems to be a matter of faith that regardless of who the Republicans choose as their candidate, they will insist on doing Bibi Netanyahu’s dirty work on the first day in office. This seems like a stark choice, but not one of these tools has said, “Let’s read the agreement.” And, of course, since we despise Europe for its frilly socialist ways, the fact that our GOP leader will literally be shitting in the soup of all of western Europe along with Japan, China and Russia –the other nations who were part of this deal– means nothing.

    BTW, fuck the conservative web site for noting any previous traffic violations for Ms. Bland. Who cares? No one deserves to be treated like that for the kind of penny-ante bullshit this cop was selling. Man, our conservative cousins are a piece of work. They’ll stand beside a fucking deadbeat loon like Cliven Bundy when he refuses to pay a more than $1 million backlog for grazing fees on federal lands and threatens Bureau of Land Management workers with gun violence, but they immediately stand up for authority when it’s a person of color on the receiving end.

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  33. Brandon said on July 23, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    @Jeff Borden: It’s the idea of a “perfect victim.”


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  34. coozledad said on July 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    BTW, fuck the conservative web site for noting any previous traffic violations for Ms. Bland
    This comes straight from the department who is trying the victim in absentia. They are scrambling to cover their asses, now.

    Why would there have to be a second coroner’s inquest? Because the first one arrived at the results prescribed by the department. It’s coming apart. It’s not standard procedure to go digging up recent inhumations unless there’s a categorical fuckup.

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  35. Sue said on July 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Jeff Borden, my young relatives drive around the Chicago area like the usual urban maniacs, I assume making frequent use of sign language and other optics and auditories to get their point across. They’ll grow out of it, but they sure shouldn’t have to die for it.
    Jolene, if she was an unstable individual who took her own life, it was after three days of who knows what following her refusal to be nice enough to an authority figure who was rather obviously pushing the limits. I call that a contributing factor if that is indeed the scenario. The professional in this situation wasn’t.
    Oh, and in WI the supreme court just ruled that ignorance of the law is, in fact, an excuse. But only if you are a police officer.

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  36. coozledad said on July 23, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    I know what a thoroughly corrupt county looks like. I live in one. This isn’t some suburb of DC. They pulled over the 2014 Obama campaign coordinator here on a bogus stop because of his bumpersticker. Threw him in jail saying that his car had at some point been used to smoke marijuana in.

    On the other hand, a judge vacated the drunk driving arrest of a Republican county commissioner on the advice of a local Republican party functionary, because the arrest records indicated a blood alcohol level of 0.13. Shitfaced. Republican County prosecutor showed up to get him released.

    Back on the road to drink again now.

    Here’s Waller:
    In 2007, the chief of police in Hempstead, Glenn Smith, was accused of racism and police brutality during an arrest. Council members opted to suspend Smith for two weeks, a sanction that disappointed civil-rights leaders in town. The following year, amid more allegations of police misconduct, Smith was fired. He promptly ran for county sheriff and won, and is now charged with investigating Bland’s death in the jail he oversees. At a news conference about Bland’s death, Smith vowed, “Black lives matter to Glenn Smith.”

    It may not come as a surprise if Waller County’s African American residents don’t buy that. And they may not feel any better about the prosecutor who would handle any case. Elton Mathis, who holds Kitzman’s old job, has also been accused of pursuing racially disparate prosecutions. Last June, a black clergyman alleged that Mathis has threatened him over such accusations.

    When you’ve gotten away with murder forever, what’s one more?

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  37. A. Riley said on July 23, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    What’s the procedure for making bail from out of state? Would the family have had to wire the money to the courthouse or something? She was arrested on Friday and found dead Monday morning at 9 AM. Would the courthouse have been open over the weekend to receive bail?

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  38. Deborah said on July 23, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    From what I’ve read, which admittedly is not extensive, the death of this young woman is the fault of the judicial system in that Texas county, if nothing else by at least neglect. They said she “refused” meals while incarcerated, and that she had admitted to them that she had attempted suicide before and yet they put her in a cell, by herself, with no help in sight. Wow, talk about incompetence, they botched everything.

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  39. Sherri said on July 23, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Let’s not forget that there’s a whole structure behind the police that contributes to this. The police don’t make the decision to charge people, prosecutors do, and they’re too often charging people on these bogus resisting arrest and obstruction of justice charges. The police don’t convict people, judges do, and the judges are too quick to convict on these charges.

    There’s a case recently out here where the Washington Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a 17 year old African-American male for obstruction of justice. He had been inside his house, behind a closed screen door, but yelling obscenities at police officers who were trying to subdue his intoxicated sister on his front lawn. The police told him to close the solid, wooden door so he couldn’t see, he refused and started recording them, and a police officer came into his house and arrested him for obstruction. He was convicted, and the case went all the way to the state Supreme Court before being overturned for the obvious violation of his rights that it was.

    Another police officer was in the news out here because one of the suburbs of Seattle has had to pay almost $500K to settle excessive force lawsuits from his actions. He was fired, but never fear, he has a new job, working as a police officer for another suburb. This suburb is more exurb, so I guess they figure that since he mostly has a problem with African Americans, he won’t encounter so many out there. (He’s a real gem – he pepper-sprayed a man handcuffed to a gurney in a hospital, and broke a man’s ankle, saying ‘he’ll never play basketball again!’, and then making the man walk on the broken ankle to the patrol car.)

    Maybe if the police union had to put in a chunk of money on the excessive force lawsuits instead of the entire cost being borne by taxpayers, the blue line would be a little more eager to police itself.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 23, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    It’s true that about 10 cops a year are shot and killed when doing what seem to be routine traffic stops. That’s why they seem to approach each one like you’re about to shoot them, because they do start from that assumption. But it’s also true that police are shooting and killing about 1000 people per year. Studies vary, but something scarily close to (or more than) half are people seeking to be shot by police, the infamous “suicide by cop.” Let’s say 500. I can tell you law enforcement officers and trainers are talking constantly about how to handle this trend, which appears to be on the increase.

    Of the other 500, how many are a true threat to police or the public, warranting deadly force? The equation law enforcement is not wanting to spell out is the relative value of 10 cop lives versus 500 citizen lives, or too often, “perps.” Do we want to see 10 become 100 cops dead to get the 500 dead suspects down to only 250, and is that an acceptable trade off? Cops, their friends and families and many citizens would say no. They’ve tried in training to start a shift to non-lethal incapacitation, Tasers and nightsticks, but there are deaths there, too, and as Nancy notes, smartphone cameras are changing the whole context of the conversation.

    But the ugly heart of the conversation is 10 cops dying caught unawares walking up to vehicles, mostly white, and 500-650 citizens killed as suspects, disproportionately minority. It isn’t calling all law enforcement racists to say our national weight of racism makes this a conversation that has largely stayed in the shadows until now. It’s not going to be as simple as telling cops to not draw — the administrative and social pressures on them to not pull a weapon are pretty strong now. I think a major factor is the political pressure on police to participate in administrative revenue collecting, pulling people over for minor stuff that’s mainly about the payment of fees and maintenance of registrations, that ends up not only putting a heavier burden on the working poor, but means cops are pulling over more jumpy people . . . and locking up more anxious, stressed, depressed people who are near breaking points to boot. We’ve had a major number of suicide attempts in our county lockup over the last year, and they weren’t people who were facing Tier 3 sex offender status or long sentences ahead, they were folks who were already going through a rough patch outside who suddenly felt inside as if it all just didn’t matter, and tried to take a permanent step out of a temporary problem.

    Ease up on these penny-ante traffic stops with life-changing implications, give patrol officers more latitude in warnings and releases, and improve training and screening to keep out those with their own personal issues they’re taking out on the road with them . . . it doesn’t address racism directly, but I think these are issues that get a pass or are neglected in large part because of racism more generally.

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 23, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    And I’ll bet A. Riley is right about timing, the weekend can stop the whole bail process, but inside, the weirdly timeless environment helps you forget what day, let alone what time of day it is. She could have thought no one cared about her, no one would ever bail her, and this was it. As Deborah said, they botched it, but it’s a set of botchings I could see happen in almost any county lock-up I’ve worked with. The combo of previous suicide attempts and multiple meal denial should have resulted in special status, which also probably didn’t happen because of the weekend but might have if she’d been pulled over on a Tuesday.

    ERs and jails are not where you want to be on a weekend. Everything becomes focused on intake, and care becomes something that will just have to wait until Monday, but for now we’re just going to “stabilize you,” which translates “figure out the minimum we have to do to pass you along to be someone else’s problem.”

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  42. Sherri said on July 23, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    On a different topic, has anyone else encountered a sudden huge increase in the price of a generic drug? I have to pay for my prescriptions until my deductible is fulfilled, and I just ran into a problem refilling a prescription for my antidepressant. The problem was that the billing department of my mail-order pharmacy needed to talk to me because the cost exceeded the limit that they were authorized to charge on my credit card, which by default was $500. Last time I filled it back in March, the generic version of the drug cost $169.59 for a three month supply, which was what the price had been since the drug had gone generic at the end of 2013. (In 2013, our insurance was different, and we didn’t pay anything for prescription drugs.)

    Now the price is $551! Before the drug went generic, it cost $604. I’m lucky, and this doesn’t matter to me; I can pay it out of our HSA, which Microsoft pays into, and I’ll just fulfill the deductible earlier, but not everybody is so lucky, and it’s not easy to change to another drug from this one.

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  43. Deborah said on July 23, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    I think I mentioned this here before, I had a project awhile back to design signage for a juvenile facility in the state of Illinois. I wasn’t looking forward to it because I thought it would be boring, but it turned out to be one of the most fascinating projects I ever worked on because of what I learned. In one meeting they spent hours discussing the windows in the “cell” doors, only they didn’t call them cells, I forget what the official term was. The issue was making sure everything could be seen inside the cell from the outside through the window. That made sense to me because at first I thought it was about making sure the kids weren’t causing hanky panky, but then after more discussion it turned out that suicide was the major problem. That was a huge eye opener for me, imagine juveniles killing themselves in droves because of their predicament. Depressing indeed.

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  44. Julie Robinson said on July 23, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Sherri, I have read about this problem, but not its reason. You’ve compared prices at different places, right? I’ve learned that even with insurance, costs can vary considerably. I just refilled a generic pain med that would cost $20 for a 90 day supply through mail order, but at Costco those same 90 pills were $2.43.

    When our son was uninsured and needed a med I discovered it ran from $22 to $75, well worth the 15-20 minutes I spent on the phone.

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  45. Dexter said on July 23, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Like a lot of men who had to grow to mature adulthood via the Stupid Expressway, I had many run-ins with police, all my fault. I rode my motorbike on the sidewalk delivering newspapers when I was a kid…caught, lectured…did it again next day.
    I regularly received speeding tickets and warnings, all my fault. Once at a party we ran out of beer and the liquor and beer store was closed so I went to the last bar open and bought a bunch of cases of glass longnecks and piled them on top of my luggage rack and drove like that right past the night cop…a stop, a concerned cop, and just then his superior ranking officer saw the commotion and he came and got me off the hook…he was at the party himself. In all these cases the cops were just doing their jobs.
    Then came the night I saw a cop actually grinding a guys face down into the spring mud with his cop-boot. I had called that cop; I told you folks about that night before, when the just-released Jackson Prison man encountered his pregnant girlfriend in the neighboring driveway and was punching her in the stomach because of the small matter of the kid being another man’s.
    That guy threatened to retrieve his handgun and come and “blow you away…”. SO that cop possibly saved my life, as the asshole parolee did have a handgun (a big mother of a handgun, said the cop). He caught the guy in the neighbor’s bushes and held that guy’s head down in the mud and yelled at me to come ID him as the assailant, which I gladly did. The bad guy had violated his parole about six different ways so it didn’t take long at all to get him back to Jackson SP.
    Years later, local cops helped me twice capture my Labbie dog who has escaped off the leash.
    Three years ago a night cop stopped me at 1:00 AM as I walked my dog and nicely handed me a business card, wanting to know if I’d report any suspicious activity I might spot as I walked my dog. I told my wife I had been deputized. I never saw a damn thing, never called.
    Cops used to take sport in our greater cities by beating gays and African-Americans, and shooting Haitians, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans.
    What are we and others supposed to do? Hope for the best, I guess.

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  46. Heather said on July 23, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I’ve never heard of a “defective” autopsy. This case is just getting more and more bizarre. It’s like the Keystone Kops and would be funny if this were at all a laughing matter.

    There’s a lot of speculation on Twitter and elsewhere that her mugshot was taken posthumously.

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  47. Dexter said on July 23, 2015 at 4:03 pm


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  48. MichaelG said on July 23, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Jolene @29, I’m aware of all that. My point was that the cop and his friends knew that Ms. Bland had done nothing and that she was no threat. They also knew that a trip to jail would be for several days since it was Friday. My question still stands and the answer is that the cop was a mean, nasty, vindictive asshole and his partners all went along with him.

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  49. Snarkworth said on July 23, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I once had to wire bail money to the Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans during spring break. I got a collect call, which I almost didn’t accept, thinking it was a scam of some sort, but then my son came on the line. He’d been picked up for public drunkenness, which he vigorously denied. He gave me the particulars of how to send the money, and he was out the next morning.

    Of course, it was a sort of scam. They know the students aren’t going to come back to town for their court date, so all that sweet money gets forfeited.

    Waller County may be less efficient, but there was probably some way to get bail money sent.

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  50. alex said on July 23, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Jailhouse suicides are bullshit. I’m with Cooz on this one.

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  51. Julie Robinson said on July 23, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Incredibly, luckily, I’ve never been pulled over. Pretty sure I’d pee my pants.

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  52. Dexter said on July 23, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Never ever, Julie? Amazing. I would bet I have been pulled over at least 40 times, maybe more. When I had a hot Chevy Nova many years ago, a certain state patrolman stopped me every time he saw me. He had another guy on his radar who was a true bad ass and he always got the two of us mixed up as our cars were exactly the same-looking, and we also resembled each other physically. He usually just warned me but he’d haul the other dude in for something or another.
    Once I got pulled over by the Indiana SP for going too slow on the Indiana Toll Road. Dry pavement…why was I only driving 44 mph, he wanted to know. Anyone care to guess? Right. He just let me go.

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  53. Hattie said on July 23, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Why do so many approach in a confrontational way? When I was last stopped the cop said,”Do you know why I stopped you?” Why didn’t he just state the offense straight up,which was an expired license plate sticker? What would he have done if I asked him if I had three guesses? Yanked me out of my car and beat me up?

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  54. Wim said on July 23, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    I got pulled over plenty when I was a long-haired kid on a Harley. It doesn’t compare to driving while black, I am sure.

    Had a cousin up Oregon way, was a cop. Chief of police, in fact. A screaming prick whose relentless abuse of his wife and children ended as it always does in murder and suicide. I’ve looked at cops from both sides and I think we’d all be better off if we took them down to the shelter and had them neutered. It should be a job requirement.

    Just saying.

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  55. Sherri said on July 23, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    I’ve been pulled over twice, but I earned it both times. The first time, I had spotted the cop, and was patiently driving the speed limit, but I saw the cop exiting and was a little too eager in resuming my former speed. He re-entered the freeway and got me. The second time, I didn’t spot the cop in time, on one of those two lane rural highways where the speed limit can suddenly go from 60 to 35. I wasn’t happy, but couldn’t be all that irritated at the cop, because it wasn’t like it was some bullshit failure to signal a lane change stop.

    The only encounter with law enforcement where I was a little taken aback was about 10 years ago when I was picking my daughter up after a basketball practice. The practice was at an elementary school, not hers, and the school was not visible from the main street. I turned in, signalling, because I knew a cop was behind me, and the cop followed me in. I parked the car, got out, and started walking towards the gym while the cop circled the parking lot and came around between me and my destination to stop me and asked me what I was doing there. I’m a middle-aged, middle class white woman, so cops don’t generally stop me and ask me that. I told him, he said, oh, I didn’t know there was anything going on here tonight, we had a discussion about the practice schedule, and he went on his way. But just for a minute there, he was in authority mode, and I was in what’s going to happen here mode.

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  56. alex said on July 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I still get a chuckle when I think of one of my friends who’s very petite. Even though she’s in her late thirties people often mistake her for a young girl, as did an asshole cop one day who saw her smoking a cigarette and demanded to know what her mother thought of her smoking. She whipped out her ID and told him her mother doesn’t like it but it hasn’t been any of her mother’s business for about twenty years.

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  57. brian stouder said on July 23, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I’m with Cooz, with one caveat: if there is ever a jury trial, one thing that caught my ear was that her admitted previous suicide attempt was a year ago, over a still-born baby. Might she have been overwhelmed on a terrible anniversary?

    None of this excuses the police for their ridiculous behavior, but there might be reasonable doubt, once all the facts are out.

    btw, I’ve been pulled over four times 38+ years of driving – resulting in three speeding tix (two on one stop!) – which I deserved.

    One stop was in Ohio (near Bryan and Pioneer) when I went around a police car that was turning left at an intersection. He said that constituted passing in an intersection, which made my chin drop…but I’m a white guy with a white wife and white kids in a minivan, and he “let me off” with a warning.

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  58. alex said on July 23, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    I question whether the admission of suicidal ideation wasn’t planted to cover a crime. Think about it. If you were being held under false pretenses and being treated with gross disrespect would you divulge something so personal? This whole thing smells.

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  59. Dave said on July 23, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    We had a neighbor who was killed when turning left, hit by a young driver who decided to pass, not realizing she was turning left. Surely, you weren’t passing him on the left, were you, Brian?

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  60. Deborah said on July 23, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I’ve been stopped twice, the first time I was returning from the vet with my dog who had a broken leg. I had an MG and the German Shepard had wedged herself way down into the well where your legs go on the passenger side. She was so scared. I was trying to comfort her while I was driving and the cop said I was speeding. He yelled at me, one inch from my face and he had horrible smelling breath. He didn’t give me a ticket but he was an asshole anyway.

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  61. Kirk said on July 23, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    My favorite stop by a cop was on the West Virginia Turnpike. I crested a hill and stepped on it, passing a state trooper going the other way. I saw him cross the median and knew I was caught. After he caught up yo me, he had me get into the cruiser. He had a styrofoam coffee cup that he was using for a spittoon and, on his non-business radio, was listening to the West Virginia-Oklahoma football game. He said I could mail in my $10 speeding fine, which I did when I returned from vacation, just in case I ever got stopped down there again.

    And “Do you know why I stopped you?” is confrontational?

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  62. brian stouder said on July 23, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Dave – I passed him on the right, as he turned left.

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  63. brian stouder said on July 23, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    So Rachel tells us the BREAKING NEWS that we have yet another mass-shooting at a movie theater, in Louisiana.

    Round and round we go, and where this stops, no one knows

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  64. Joe K said on July 23, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I have been pulled over, when it was at night, I turned on my dome light and kept my hand on top of the wheel in sight. In the day light, hands on top, when asked for registration, told the officer I am going to open my glove box now or I would get my registration out before the policeman got to my car, said yes sir and no sir and showed them respect, never had a problem, never felt threatened, both by state troopers, and both large and small city police, are there bad police? Yep, but all in all I pray they are there if I need them, and I’ll show them respect always.
    Pilot Joe

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  65. Little Bird said on July 23, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Have you SEEN the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest? It’s like watching an episode of The Twilight Zone. Cars disappear. And repeat three or four times.
    All that cop had to do was hand her the damn ticket. That’s it. And none of this would have happened. He took it upon himself to teach her how to respond to cops, the way he seems to think she should have. I’ve heard and read about how she had pot in her system, and how this fact is somehow related to her suicide. I call bullshit.

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  66. Deborah said on July 23, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Speaking of bullies, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/the-toxic-world-view-of-ta-nehisi-coates-120512.html#ixzz3giiQUKvj
    Consider the source I guess.

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  67. Sherri said on July 23, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Here’s another bully on the force. He messed with the wrong guy, though.


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  68. redoubt said on July 23, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    By way of reminder–Waller County, TX is where Prairie View A & M students–where Ms. Bland was going to work–had to march in 2008 for greater access to voting rights, and which is still being monitored by the DOJ for same.

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  69. Sherri said on July 23, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Why should Sandra Bland have had to post a cash bail anyway? Was she a flight risk?


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  70. Sherri said on July 24, 2015 at 2:31 am

    More on the bail industry: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/does-the-bounty-hunting-industry-need-reform/399224/

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  71. Dexter said on July 24, 2015 at 2:49 am

    A true friend will listen intently when you need to talk, and sometimes encourage you when you are down or maybe a little “blue”. I have had four friends like this in my life, Bert the WWI veteran I befriended in 1979 when he was 87 years old, Tom my neighbor who was a school teacher and later a principal, my co-worker Oscar from my last job in the workforce, and from many years ago when I was a baseball player, my teammate J.D.
    I bring this up only because Oscar and J.D. both had roots in Lafayette, Louisiana in the 1950s …for Oscar, up until he moved north to Fort Wayne. J.D. may still live there as far as I know. Oscar still makes frequent drives back home to his family down there. Just as I had a connection with Charleston, having family there and having spent many summer days there, I have friends with deep connections with Lafayette, Louisiana where the murders occurred hours ago. It’s a small world in that respect…nobody’s ever safe anymore.

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  72. David C. said on July 24, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I’ve never been pulled over either. I chalk that up to a life driving boring sub-compact cars and being a rule follower or at least when I break the rules, like going 75mph on the Tri-state going around Chicago, I break them with everybody else.

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  73. alex said on July 24, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Ah, Chicago. One of the last times I ever got ticketed was maybe 25 years ago. I was making a left turn against a No Left Turn sign covered in snow. The cop coming in the opposite direction stopped and motioned for me to turn, then wrote me a fat ticket. I probably should have gone to court and argued that a police officer’s directives always trump signs and signals. If I’d had a cell phone back then I could have taken a picture of the sign. This was westbound on Fullerton at Clark.

    But I agree with Dave — when in Chicago, do as the Chicagoans do. It would be dangerous to go any slower.

    I’ve been pulled over a few times in the last few decades but not ticketed and have a perfect driving record. And driving a boring car isn’t a hedge against getting pulled over. It’s how you drive. I purchased a racy red car from a friend many years ago who was in danger of losing his license because he had so many speeding tickets and he warned me that the car was a cop magnet. In the nine years that I drove it, never once did I get a speeding ticket. Nor in my current racy yellow car or my new red car that I just got this week. (Knock wood. It takes off like greased lightning with barely a touch of the accelerator.)

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  74. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 24, 2015 at 7:02 am

    Oddly enough, they train law enforcement to ask “why do you think I pulled you over” because not infrequently you hear not “because I was speeding, officer?” but they’re told “because of the bag of weed in the trunk” or “since I have a body in the back.” Human nature is an odd thing. And I think I’ve mentioned before, police along I-70 will tell me, not that they are out on the interstate, but near it (which may skew this up a bit), that two of three cars they pull over will have some problem, one or combination of expired license, suspended license, outstanding warrant, or problem with the car (it’s not theirs, registration expired, something like that), let alone an impaired driver or some other current legal issue (substances in the car, a passenger with outstanding warrants, etc.). They might have pulled out behind you and flipped on the lights because of speeding or an erratic lane change, but as they walk up to the vehicle, they have all kinds of reasons to be unsure what they’re about to get into.

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  75. Suzanne said on July 24, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Deborah, I did skim through that politico article on Coates. The part about the Upper West side woman getting on his kid stuck out. In some ways, isn’t that kind of the heart of the matter? How does anybody separate the racist from the woman who is just being a jerk because a kid is moving too slow to suit her? I would have been mad, too, if my kid had been treated that way but since I’m white, would not have thought anything besides “Geeze, lady. Get a life!”

    Will we ever sort it out? I guess we’ll know when a situation like Coates describes arises and he, too, simply thinks “Geeze, lady! Get a life!” I think it’ll be a while, though.

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  76. Jolene said on July 24, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Some good TV on Comedy Central last night. Larry Wilmore talked about the Sandra Bland case. He was quite perceptive, I thought, in his observations re the interaction between Bland and the cop. In particular, he noted that saying, “Are you done?”, as the cop did, is not a way of bringing a painful or unpleasant conversation to an end. It’s an invitation to more unpleasantness, which is exactly what he got.

    And Jon Stewart interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates. Scroll down to the extended interviews to hear the part of their conversation that wasn’t on the show.

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  77. beb said on July 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

    While I hope Nancy pops in eventually with fresh thread for the weekend, this has been and interesting and informative thread.

    The critical review of Ta-Nehishi Coates’ new book is from the editor of The National Review, perhaps the worst of the Right-wing journals. And Lowrey’s criticisms of the book are both vague and the usual tripe that Blacks have only themselves to blame for not succeeding.

    Why is “Do you know why I stopped you?” confrontational? Partly it’s the way it’s uttered. And partly it’s because it’s a demand for a self-incriminating confession. According to the 5th Amendment I don’t have to answer a question like that but if I don’t respond to the officer I’m being defiant. In any case, this was just a traffic stop, why is the cop looking for weed or a dead body in the trunk? If the cop is primarily looking for evidence of some more serious crime then the traffic stop was just a pretext. That may or may not be legal but it ought to be illegal.

    “Just saying…” is a passive-aggressive way of saying “Bite me.” It’s like asking ‘if so-and-so is a pig-fucker’ (to use the LBJ example) because it could be a legitimate question but it really exists to poison a conversation.

    What’s a ‘defective’ autopsy? It could have been conducted by an incompetent medical examiner. It could have not examined certain evidence properly. And when a police department seems to be busy trying convict the deceased in absensia it’s always worth it to have a second, independent opinion.

    A while back I found an article that argued that police forces were organized, beginning around 1830 ostensibly to fight urban crime but mostly to bust up protests by the underclass against their natural overlords. When viewed that way cops-as-bullies makes perfect sense. And efforts to make cops not be bullies is about as likely as paddling up Niagara Falls.

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  78. Suzanne said on July 24, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    You never know what a routine traffic stop might lead to, Tim McVeigh coming to mind. But in the Bland case, there was nothing nefarious to root out & from what we can see on the tape, things never should have reached the point that they did. It does give me pause thinking about the 3 times I’ve been stopped and how I spoke to the officer and how easily things can spiral out of control.

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