Did Sandra Bland have to get out of her car?

Short answer: Yes

Uniform StoriesThis post originally appeared on the Uniform Stories website and is reprinted here with their permission.

Waller County, Texas. July 10, 2015

Sandra Bland was stopped by a Texas State Trooper for a traffic violation. She was ultimately arrested and booked for assaulting the trooper. Three days later, she was discovered hanging in her jail cell. An autopsy confirmed the death of suicide.

This post is not about Bland’s death, nor is it for you conspiracy theorists out there. It’s not for you vehement supporters or detractors of law enforcement (I have no expectation of influencing either of you). It is directed at those of you who share Bland’s confusion about how “all of this happened because I failed to signal a lane change.”

If you’ve paid any attention to my ranting over the last seven years over at the blog (not to mention the last year or so at UniformStories), you’ll recall there is one test that all officer’s adhere to: The Attitude Test.

When Bland was re-contacted with a citation, the Trooper asked her to extinguish her cigarette. She took an exception to his request and that’s where things started going downhill. What we need to ask ourselves is this: Can a trooper make that request or order and does a driver have to comply?

Let me answer that question by asking another: Can a cigarette be used as a weapon?

If you answered no, I would say I agree…if you define ‘weapon’ as something that could kill you. Of course, a cigarette can’t kill you (other than slowly over decades because you have a disgusting and deadly habit), but it can certainly injure you via a burn. Is it within reason to say a lit, flicked cigarette could be used as a distraction whilst the flicker grabs a deadly weapon? I’d certainly say so.

So, yes, I believe an officer can order someone to extinguish a cigarette during a contact. Bland seemingly disagreed because she can be heard on audio saying, “Why do I have to put out a cigarette when I’m in my own (sic) car?” Often, people want to debate what they believe to be their rights on the side of the road and this is what I want to scream at them every single time:

That is what court is for!!

When the guy/girl with the badge and gun tells you to do something, it is safer for you to assume we know what we’re talking about and it would behoove you to comply.

Bland decided to go a different route. Now listen, it’s never pretty to see someone resisting arrest. We don’t get to say, “Pretty please with a cherry on top.” If someone says no, we make them. It’s as easy as that.

For the remainder of the story, please visit UniformStories.com where you’ll learn about exactly why the Trooper can legally tell Bland to exit the vehicle.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

8 thoughts on “Did Sandra Bland have to get out of her car?

  1. I agree. I like the meme that’s going around about how if you obey the LEO, you’ll have your hands behind your back where as if you fight/argue/are an overall POS, you’ll likely be face down with your hands behind your back.

  2. The arresting officer, Brian Encinia, acted like a jerk. Encinia was looking for an excuse to harass Bland, and she was only too happy to give him one. Steve McCraw, director of public safety, admitted as much. The real problem is that this isn’t the first time Encinia behaved this way, and very little was done to change his behavior until now. I think it’s likely that that’s a common situation with cops like Encinia, who we hope are in the minority.

  3. So the question about the legality of Officer Brian Encinia’s orders has already been answered. Encinia’s orders were legal and his actions were well within the boundaries of the law. Had Bland held her temper, put out her cigarette and complied, it’s likely she wouldn’t have gone to jail. While it’s certainly true that Bland could have filed a complaint against Encinia for being a jerk and acting rudely, I don’t believe much (if anything) would have been done. Mind you, that’s only my belief and I could be mistaken.

  4. One thing…

    The officer can be heard on the dashcam video saying the paper she was signing was a warning. I don’t know why some jurisdictions make their officers fill out a complete form for a warning, why the offender has to sign the warning or why an officer would issue a warning in the first place, but she wasn’t even getting a ticket.

  5. It was a CS stop. Legal but CS. Cop could have easily de-escalated situation but chose not to and instead exerted his full authority. He chose poorly in my opinion. Not withstanding Bland could have been much more bland about it all (pun intended) and de-escalated situation also but she was too caught up in her self victimization to use her brains. It became a spiral that resulted in a petty arrest that didn’t need to happen. I dealt with these types for 26 years. When she copped attitude I would have changed it from warning to real cite and let it go at that. With this guy it was one whiff of attitude and boom ‘get out of the car’. He has shitty street skills in my opinion. Of course I wouldn’t stop anyone for such a CS violation in the first place, unless s/he looked like a crook who needed checking on. That’s why those CS violations exist. That being said, I’m glad I’m retired. Stay safe brothers.

  6. I don’t really care for these folks that play the “victim card”.

    One is either responsible for their own behavior or they are not.

    The officer’s perceived attitude did not matter.

    What mattered was the reaction to it.

    I was taught at a young age that it did not matter what people said or did to me, what mattered was my reaction to it. Who held the reins to my thoughts, actions, and attitude? Me or someone else?

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