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Sandra Bland’s mother sues DPS and Waller County

Can’t say this is a surprise.

Sandra Bland

The mother of Sandra Bland filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and several others she deems responsible for the death of her 28-year-old daughter at the Waller County Jail in mid-July.

Geneva Reed-Veal is seeking a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages in her wrongful death suit against DPS trooper Brian Encinia; Waller County jail screening officers Elsa Magnus and Oscar Prudente; Waller County; and the DPS.

“What happened to Sandy Bland?” Reed-Veal told members of the press, asking the question she hopes the lawsuit can answer and echoing a hashtag that has gained traction on social media: #WhatHappenedtoSandraBland.

Reed-Veal rubbed the back of her daughter Sharon Cooper as she explained that although the family still hasn’t seen enough evidence to convince them that Bland’s death was a suicide, they are prepared to accept whatever the truth turns out to be. Cooper emphasized that whatever the cause, Bland should not have died in jail.

“What remains constant is that she should not have been there in the first place,” Cooper said.

[…]

According to the 46-page lawsuit, Encinia “demonstrated a deliberate indifference to and conscious disregard for the constitutional rights and safety of Sandra Bland.” It noted that Encinia previously was reprimanded for “unprofessional conduct” and faulted Texas DPS for improper training, saying the agency should have known he “exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.”

In addition, the lawsuit accuses Magnus and Prudente, screening officers at the Waller County Jail, for inadequately monitoring Bland and failing to provide proper medical care when she was found injured in her cell.

Waller County deserves blame, according to the lawsuit, for not providing sufficient training to jail staff for handling inmates “who are mentally disabled and/or potentially suicidal.” The suit also said the jail failed to have a procedure for jailers to make face-to-face observations of all inmates at least once every hour.

You can see a copy of the lawsuit at the link above. As you know, I agree completely with Ms. Cooper about Sandra Bland not belonging in jail. We can’t undo what happened to Sandra Bland, but we can sure do everything we can to find out how and why it happened, and to make sure it never happens again. The Trib and the Current have more.

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5 Comments

  1. Steven Houston says:

    The LA Times is reporting on the trooper’s statistics for his traffic stops:
    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-sandra-bland-trooper-encinia-20150810-story.html

    In under a year, he stopped 1500+ customers, “Encinia had stopped 1,537 drivers since August 2014. He appears to have stopped about the same percentage of African American and white drivers: 34%. About 21% of those he stopped were Latino, 8% were of unknown race, 2% were Asian and one person was Native American. Phillip Atiba Goff, president of the Center for Policing Equity and a visiting scholar at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said he was struck by how many white drivers Encinia stopped, given that the area where he was working includes Prairie View A&M University, a historically black school in a city that is 89% African American.”

    Given his stats were so even for whites and blacks, I suspect he was not assigned to Prairie View Texas the entire year, the census figures for the city showing it is over 88% black, the university having something like 89% blacks in the student population too. Regardless, it is another setback for those trying to make it all about race, much like it being only his second time in trouble out of over 1500 traffic stops. There are still plenty of questions to be answered but anyone suggesting this development helps Bland’s family is ignoring the context, not just the specifics, of the matter.

  2. Ross says:

    I think the blame in this case lies more with bad policing procedure than with race. DPS is known for running up right behind a car on the road, then citing them for speeding or failure to signal when the car pulls over to let the trooper go by. That has to stop, it’s bogus and a misuse of the applicable laws.

    Encinia also lacked the ability to deal with a driver with an attitude. There’s no law that requires any of us to be polite to law enforcement, and police should be able to suppress their egos and walk away from attitude. I would be as mad as Bland for getting pulled over in that situation, after I tried to do the right thing and make way for the trooper to go by.

  3. Steven Houston says:

    Ross, I’ve found city and county police (Houston and Harris, respectively) to be exceptionally polite compared to the mechanical attitude of troopers over the years but as only two of his traffic stops have been released, the one immediately before Bland and the now infamous Bland stop, I don’t know if it is fair to draw that conclusion so absolutely given how many he’s performed with no problems. I’ve never had one speed up on my bumper either but if it really is a frequent thing, I concur it should be stopped. DPS have been all over the roads of late in my area but they don’t seem to be stopping many people, the corollary being a lot more people seem to be using their signals too.

  4. Ross says:

    Of the folks I know who have received DPS tickets, over half were given after a trooper ran up behind them at high speed, and they either sped up to get around the car they were passing, or moved over to let the trooper by, and were stopped for speeding or failure to signal. I guess my approach will be to ignore any trooper who isn’t running with lights, and finish passing the car in the right lane at a legal speed.

  5. Steven Houston says:

    Ross, everyone I know that received a ticket from a trooper earned it the old fashioned way, by speeding and being signaled over to the side of the road. Not a single one denied they were speeding and at least from what they told me or posted on social media, each apologized, most were handed a warning ticket, then they moved on with their lives like adults.

    I pay attention on the road, go the speed limit, and if a trooper came up behind me at a high rate of speed without his flashy lights going, I would continue driving the speed limit and stay in my lane. This method has worked for me so far. Were one to pull me over, I’d be courteous and polite like the majority of people from my generation with the expected outcome far less dramatic than in the Bland case. But if the current expectation by some of you is that all troopers be perfect in every way and every time, good luck with that.