dash cam disgust

sunlight-rectangleA day that began with watching 25 minutes of the 52 minutes dash cam video of Sandra Bland’s traffic stop could not be a good day. There is SO MUCH that is awful about it.

Gloria Browne Marshall, Associate Professor at John Jay Criminal College, as heard on this morning’s On Point: “As a constitutional law professor at John Jay College, I talk to my students all the time about knowing their rights, but I also want them to come back from a police interaction alive…” So, no, there is no legal basis for asking Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette, (and, by the way, Browne Marshall didn’t think he’d ask a white man to do so) but, “We have a power dynamic here where he believes he has the right to do that.”

The professor also stated that in the absence of obvious drugs or weapons or violent behavior, the cop did not have the legal right to demand that she get out of the car, though elsewhere today I heard that a police office can both legally demand that someone stay in their car and legally demand that they get out of their car.

Professor Browne addressed power imbalances, intimidation (the taser pointed at eye level), and racial profiling — not at all like the lame talking head on CBS news tonight.

Whether the 52 minutes has been edited is still a matter of controversy, but Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma (who knows a thing or two about editing film), thinks it obvious that it was. Of this possibility, Professor Browne Marshall said: “if this is what we’re allowed to see… it makes me wonder what they were doing to her in that jail cell.”

Here are a couple of my more random thoughts about the video:

  • How ironic that the policeman demands she put her phone down. WHO was she gonna call? WHO was there that could have come to her rescue? Was he worried about being filmed?
  • Did he intentionally move her off camera to cuff her?
  • What did that black female officer think as she was searching Sandra Bland’s car? After Bland’s death, did she look back over the events of that morning and wish she had inserted herself somehow?
  • How VERY weird to listen to the policeman calmly flip through a book (of police terms and protocol?) and talk to the dispatcher about whether he ought to write up Sandra Bland for assault (“I mean, I’m okay, but she did kick me…”) or resisting arrest. It was sick weird.
  • So many people I know and respect and who lead pretty normal lives ‘have a history of depression’ — just saying.

12 thoughts on “dash cam disgust

  1. RainSluice

    Well analyzed, Dee. A horridly disgusting “traffic stop”. I heard the recorded snippet of just the cop’s voice and her voice on the radio yesterday (“get out of the car”, “but why should I get out of the car” – I don’t recall her exact words but the tone of her voice was certainly not intimidating, in fact my impression was she felt kind of bad for the cop??) and I just wanted to stop my car, get out and puke right there on the side of the road. Something is really not right with our policing system – duh. But, are they being trained even against their own wil to treat people badly? to treat people of color badly? and indeed, how do cops who are people of color begin to deal with this? I have wondered, seeing them silently present on several videos over the past few years… I’m not blaming them, I’m just asking what is behind ALL of this? I’m starting to reach back into my communications studies, at Columbia University – let me just add for CU intimidation purposes πŸ™‚ – and I think “could there be a Leni Riefenstahl in this mess somewhere? Are our cops being trained to be propagandists themselves? To me, it is beyond belief: blatant and published violence against innocent people and nothing really done to turn the tide.

    1. deemallon

      Who is Leni Riefestahl. Educate, please.

      The presence of social media IS making a difference (think: Black Twitter and what just happened with Bernie Sanders (#EarnMyDamnVote), and there are commissions being established, and I think the idea is now a part of the mainstream: we live in two Americas. It really is astonishing to think that African Americans have to learn two sets of things: one, their legal rights and two, how to survive an encounter with the cops. And having said that, I need to clarify, sometimes it would appear that there simply IS no surviving an encounter. Right now I doubt we will ever know what happened in that jail cell.

      1. Heather

        Leni Riefenstahl was an acclaimed German filmmaker who made propaganda films for Hitler and was his friend (at minimum), all while managing to remain blissfully unaware of the Holocaust. She won dozens of libel cases, and finally went to her reckoning at 101.

        1. deemallon

          ok, thank you Heather. This goes to the ONE TWO punch of these awful episodes… ONE being the act of violence itself and TWO being how it is discussed in the media

        2. Heather

          That’s one way my news blackout comes in handy πŸ˜‰

          I don’t know a lot about dash cams, but it seems they would be more useful if they streamed the video to another location? I was also thinking … wouldn’t it be helpful to have a civilian 911 that people could call when police episodes like this are going down? Or a social media thing to get a crowd there to witness?

  2. Liz

    It is times like this (and many others besides) that make me hang my head as I say “I’m from Texas.”

    Someone once told me ” I don’t say I’m from Texas, I say I’m from Austin … an island of blue in a sea of red.”

    If only it were that simple … but in fact there have been multiple police shootings here, too. That said, I know of a young man who recently joined the Austin police department … I want to believe he wants to make a difference in a positive way. But surely he will be hardened by the negative aspects of human nature to which he will be witness. Hopefully the APD will get the funding for hundreds of extra officers to be a part of a community policing effort. It is only by meeting and getting to know people day-to-day that police can develop the empathy to assist them when they are in their darkest, most desperate hours.

    Fear of the other, not hate, is the true opposite of love. How tragic it all is, how unnecessary.

    1. deemallon

      Liz, you point out one of the other systemic problems with police violence (the first and overwhelming one being racism), and that is underfunded city departments… and today I will sit with this idea that fear is the underbelly here, and not hate. That changes things, somehow…

    2. Heather

      Exactly true about fear … I had that very same thought. I think fear is where it starts … and then sometimes hate kicks in. With KKK violence, it starts with hate–but I think this kind of thing tends to be different.

  3. Heather

    Just wanted to note as a followup to my previous comment … I just read that this livestreaming technology exists. Twitter’s Periscope launched in March, and the Fargo, ND police are using it to livestream their own traffic stops. The piece I read mentioned one of its uses as monitoring police activity.

    1. deemallon

      thanks for the update, Heather. I have heard too about a version of a 911 call that goes directly to a socially responsible group — the ACLU, perhaps?


Leave a Reply