One year after she was found dead in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas following a traffic stop and arrest by former Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) remembers the life of Sandra Bland and calls for increased transparency and data collection in police encounters. “After a deeply troubling week of violence by and toward police in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas and amidst peaceful protests across the country, Sandra Bland’s death remains yet another painful and unanswered question,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “Our thoughts are with Ms. Bland’s family, especially in light of the extreme turmoil rippling across the nation.”
A Waller County medical examiner concluded that Ms. Bland’s death was suicide by hanging. Family and community members, however, reject this finding and continue to seek more information about what transpired during Ms. Bland’s last hours. Former State Trooper Encinia, who was captured on dash camera video threatening to “light” Ms. Bland up with his Taser, has been formally fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and a grand jury has indicted him for a misdemeanor charge of perjury after concluding there was sufficient evidence showing he lied in his affidavit detailing his encounter with Ms. Bland. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his criminal case is pending. No one at the Waller County jail was charged in connection with Sandra Bland’s death, and her family has launched a wrongful death lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety which is scheduled to go to trial in January of 2017.
Sandra Bland’s tragic death brought heightened attention to the increasing number of people, including women, who have been subjected to aggressive policing tactics such as excessive use of force and have died either directly or indirectly as a result. This year, police have killed 518 men, women and youth, according to the Washington Post, which has been collecting this data because there is no reliable national census of police killings. This trend has continued over the course of the past year, as police officers continue to use excessive force in lieu of de-escalation tactics, which can lead to situations taking a fatal turn.
Prior to Ms. Bland’s death, LDF had called upon Congress and the Obama Administration to adopt key policing reforms, such as requiring law enforcement agencies to annually collect, report, and analyze use-of-force and traffic and pedestrian stop data, and to conduct implicit bias and de-escalation training as a condition for receiving federal funds. “Now, more than ever, it is apparent that full transparency is needed when it comes to interactions between law enforcement and minority communities,” said Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of LDF. “It is unacceptable that Sandra Bland’s loved ones, like so many others, are still searching for answers while we grapple with the devastating fallout from the most recent policing crisis.”
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. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.