Following yesterday’s grand jury indictment of a Texas State trooper for perjury in connection with his traffic stop and arrest of Sandra Bland—and the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (Texas DPS) initiation of proceedings to discharge the trooper—the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) reiterates its call for commonsense reforms to eliminate racially-biased policing in Texas and across the nation.
Ms. Bland, 28, a resident of Illinois, was reportedly returning to Texas to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater, when Texas State Trooper Brian T. Encinia arrested her on July 10, 2015 in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, after a routine traffic stop.
Yesterday’s indictment of Trooper Encinia for perjury follows the December 21, 2015 grand jury decision not to indict any sheriff’s officials or correctional officers in connection with Ms. Bland’s death in custody, which occurred on July 13, 2015, as she and her family were seeking to post $500 bail. The Waller County medical examiner had previously ruled Bland’s death was a suicide.
It is clear from the video of the traffic stop that Trooper Encinia did not ask Ms. Bland to leave the car to further investigate the traffic stop as he indicated in his police report. Instead, audio from the police vehicle dashboard camera reveals that the trooper told Ms. Bland that he was going to give her a warning for allegedly changing lanes without signaling. He asked her to exit the car only after she refused to put out her cigarette.
“While LDF commends the Waller County grand jury for its perjury indictment of Trooper Encinia—and endorses local activists’ calls for his termination—we are deeply disappointed that the underlying police misconduct in the Bland case has not been adequately addressed. There has been virtually no accountability for the needless traffic stop of Sandra Bland, the seemingly coerced traffic violation, the assault that took place, and Bland’s later death in custody,” said Janai Nelson, LDF’s Associate Director-Counsel.
Given this indictment, a previous finding that Trooper Encinia’s behavior during his interaction with Ms. Bland violated the Texas DPS’s courtesy and traffic stop policies, and Waller County’s history of racial discrimination in voting, LDF calls on local leaders and the Texas DPS to conduct a thorough investigation of policing practices in that county to identify and address any incidents of racially-biased policing.
In addition, because we believe that many of the same issues are involved in racially- biased police misconduct in other areas of the country, we ask officials across the nation to implement commonsense solutions to racially-biased policing as quickly as possible. Such solutions include:
Finally, in the midst of the current crisis in law enforcement, LDF asks that the impact of this latest example of inadequate police accountability on Sandra Bland’s family not be lost. “We extend our deepest sympathy to her family and share their previously expressed frustrations over the outcome of the grand jury process,” said Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy at LDF and lead attorney of LDF’s Policing Reform Campaign, “Only urgent public action in police departments in Texas and across the nation can prevent needless and tragic incidents like that involving Sandra Bland from happening again.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.