In 2015, former Texas DPS trooper Brian Encinia stopped Sandra Bland in Prairie View after failing to signal a lane change. Bland’s conversation with the arresting officer became heated, and she was arrested for assaulting a public servant.
Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois woman, was found dead in her Waller County Jail cell three days after her arrest, sparking concerns about jail conditions and outrage across the country. Her death has been ruled a suicide by hanging.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, announced last year that he would file the bill to address race, poverty, mental health and accountability in law enforcement and corrections. Fourteen recommendations in the Texas House County Affairs Committee’s recent reports to lawmakers — including calls for them to increase police officer training for de-escalation and mental health awareness, to back jail-to-treatment diversion programs, and eliminate consent searches during stops — will be the foundation for the Sandra Bland Act.
Coleman stated “Even though it’s legal, it make no sense for someone to be arrested because of a traffic violation or for a stop like Bland’s to escalate into an arrest.”
Coleman said “If you look at Sandra Bland, the incident that led to her death — that’s all you have to look at,” If a driver’s tail light is out, or they cross over the yellow line, no matter how briefly, “the law says they are jailable offenses, so we have to remove that from the statute,”
“[Encinia] was well within his right to (arrest Bland), and that’s where we’re running into the problem,” he said. “It’s baked in the cake. Injustice is baked into the cake.”
Other proposals from the committee include eliminating consent searches and raising the threshold for stops to something higher than the current “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion.”
In a segment on April 11th’s noon news KVUE in Austin aired a short segment on “The Sandra Bland Act” stating “ On Tuesday, Texas lawmakers are hearing a bill hoping to end racial discrimination during traffic stops. 28-year-old Sandra Bland died in a Waller County jail in 2015, only after spending 3 days in her cell.House Bill 27–02 wants to see increased training in de-escalation tactics for officers.
It would also require the Department of Public Safety to document the race of every person they stop.
For those who would like to read the complete bill HB 2702 begins “Relating to interactions between law enforcement and individuals detained or arrested on suspicion of the commission of criminal offenses and the confinement or release of those individuals prior to prosecution.
If you live in Texas you can contact your state representative using The Texas House of Representatives Directory and if you don’t know who your representative is you can find them using your home address at the “Find Your Representative” webpage.
Please take the time to call your representative and also ask neighbors, friends and family to call their state representative too.
The “Sandra Bland Act” must be passed and we must make our voices heard to our state representatives.