Amid disturbing allegations of police abuse and use of excessive force, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joins calls for a full and complete investigation into the in-custody death of Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in a cell at Waller County, TX Jail on July 13, 2015. She was only 28 years old. The medical examiner ruled her death a suicide.
According to news reports, a Texas trooper pulled over Ms. Bland’s vehicle for failing to signal as she changed lanes. A bystander’s video footage of the traffic stop suggests that the state trooper, identified as Brian Encinia, used excessive force during the arrest of Ms. Bland. The trooper has been suspended for violating department procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s “courtesy” policy.
“This latest tragedy in a twelve-month trend of police-related deaths that have gained unprecedented national attention deserves as much attention as any other,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “We call for the public release of as much information as possible concerning the in-custody death of Ms. Bland.”
Sandra Bland is among a jarring number of African-American female victims of police in-custody deaths that includes: Tanisha Anderson, a Cleveland woman whose death was ruled a homicide; and Natasha McKenna, a Virginia woman who died after being restrained and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun. McKenna’s death was ruled an accident. Like the deaths of Freddie Gray and Tyrone West in Baltimore, and countless other African Americans who have died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody, Ms. Bland’s death is deserving of the highest scrutiny.
“Ms. Bland’s death is tragic no matter the circumstances and we extend our condolences to her family and friends.” said LDF Associate Director-Counsel Janai Nelson. “The eroding public trust in law enforcement that cases like this engender can be mitigated only by a searching investigation and full accountability if wrongdoing is found.”
For over a year, LDF has called for key law enforcement reforms, including 1) the use of federal funding to incentivize best policing practices; 2) responsibly-used police body-worn cameras; 3) full accountability of law enforcement; and 4) improved data collection.
“Ms. Bland’s death must be put in the context of the countless number of other in-custody deaths of persons of color,” said Monique Dixon, LDF Senior Policy Counsel and lead counsel of the Race and Policing Reform Campaign. “It is critical that local law enforcement agencies maintain accurate records of these and other incidents of police misconduct that can be examined by the public.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.