Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw shared his thoughts on the death of Sandra Bland and how the actions of the arresting officer escalated the incident, The Texas Tribune reports.
During a livestream on Tuesday with Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith, McGraw explained how in any situation involving a civilian, the officer is responsible. DPS Trooper Brian Encinia pulled Bland over in July for a an alleged traffic violation. The encounter quickly turned aggressive when Encina arrested Bland following her refusal to put out a cigarette.
After being taken to Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas, the Chicago native was found hanging three days later in her jail cell. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
Video of the police encounter was eventually released to the public, with Encinia facing scrutiny for his exaggerated account of what happened. McGraw explained the officer didn’t follow proper protocol while apprehending Bland.
“It’s always on the trooper,” McCraw told Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith. “We’re accountable for every stop. And the citizen has a right to be objectionable – they can be rude. They can do a lot of things. They can say things, they can do things, and at the end of the day, we have an obligation not to react and be pulled into that. We’ve got to be professional, above that.”
Encinia violated protocol, acted unprofessionally and allowed the interaction to escalate quickly, McCraw said. “We require professional courtesy and display at all times, and clearly he did not do it in that situation,” the director said.
Troopers had more than 2 million interactions in 2015, McCraw said, and they “don’t get pulled into” confrontations like Encinia did, he said.
Bland’s death was heavily protested, while details about her life proved her personal dedication to better the treatment of Blacks in America. Since her passing, murals have been created all over the country to pay tribute, and her final blog posts have gone viral.
A grand jury indicted Encinia on perjury and he was placed on desk duty. He is facing a wrongful death lawsuit from Bland’s family and termination proceedings.
If found guilty of perjury, Encinia could spend up to a year in jail.