Sandra Bland

Cop Who Arrested Sandra Bland Is Indicted for Perjury

The grand jury did not buy Brian Encinia's justification for escalating the traffic stop.

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Texas DPS

The Houston Chronicle reports that a Waller County, Texas, grand jury has indicted Brian Encinia, the state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, for perjury based on a statement he made in his report on the traffic stop that ended with her in handcuffs. Dashcam video of the July 10 incident shows that Encinia, who pulled Bland over for changing lanes without signaling, lost his temper after she declined his request that she put out her cigarette. That was the point at which he ordered her out of her car, informed her that she was under arrest, grabbed her, and threatened her with a Taser. But in his arrest report Encinia claimed that "I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation."

The grand jurors did not buy that. "They just didn't believe it," said special prosecutor Darrell Jordan. "A warrant will be issued, and we'll go from there." The perjury charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.

The announement suggests that the grand jury rejected other possible charges against Encinia, such as false imprisonment and assault and battery. And since Bland, who was found dead of an apparent suicide at the Waller County jail three days after Encinia arrested her, probably would still be alive if he had kept his cool and acted more professionally, the misdemeanor charge seems rather unsatisfying. But at least the grand jury, which last month declined to indict jail personnel in connection with Bland's death, recognized the way that Encinia tried to cover up the embarrassing details of his encounter with Bland. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) already has said Encinia's conduct violated DPS policy.

The false statement that struck the grand jurors goes to the heart of Encinia's justification for forcing Bland out of her car. It's pretty clear this escalation had nothing to do with his safety and everything to do with his desire to assert his authority while punishing Bland for her insuffiently meek attitude. Yet the Supreme Court has said a police officer may order a legally detained motorist out of his car at will, no matter how implausible the officer safety rationale is in any particular case. That sort of blanket license to boss people around is bound to be abused, in this case with fatal consequences. 

Update: After the indictment, DPS announced that it will "begin termination proceedings" against Encinia, who has been on desk duty since Bland's death.

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  1. I wonder how big of a role having in a special prosecutor instead of a regular prosecutor played in this indictment.

    1. Its an appalling conflict of interest for a local DA to handle a case against local cops. I doubt its a technical conflict under the ethics rules, but its still a conflict.

      The State AG should have a division that is charged with theses cases, and state cops should do the investigating, arresting, and so forth.

      1. It was a state cop who pulled her over. Not local.

        He was Texas DPS. He took her to the local jail.

        Waller County, Texas is predominately black.

      2. “Its an appalling conflict of interest for a local DA to handle a case against local cops.”

        Amen! One need only consider the Tamir Rice case to see this in action, although there are hundreds of other examples.

        Special prosecutors should handle all police violence cases.

  2. I thought that the ONLY reason for a traffic stop was to escalate?

    Cop: Did you know you rolled that stop sign?

    Driver: Um, no officer, I thought th…

    Cop: Shut up! I smell drugs! Get out of the car!

    Driver: Ok, I…

    Cop: STOP RESISTING! *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* …. *calling for backup* Suspect down, was resisting, went for my gun…

    1. Old school cop, rocking a six shooter, I take it.

      1. Ok, so I left out a few *BANG*s in my story.

      2. Anyone who carries a six shooter revolver with six in the chamber is not very wise.

    2. Cop: STOP RESISTING! *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* …. *calling for backup* Suspect down, was resisting, went for my gun…

      *bzzt*

      It’s “shots fired”. That keeps it ‘open’ which causes hundreds of cops to descend on the scene to protect one of their own.

  3. Bland pushed and pushed this guy and caused the escalation. I know it’s common procedure here to hold cops responsible for every bad thing that ever happens but anybody with any common sense can watch that video and see how she pushed a simple situation into something much worse.

    1. Unless Bland was operating in commerce, conducting business on public land, the police officer had no lawful authority to do anything to her. The LEO is a servant to the people and not, as many of them believe, the master.

      1. I’m not sure where you’re coming from with this statement but cops stop people every day for traffic violations. Even sovereign citizens.

    2. Bland pushed and pushed this guy and caused the escalation.

      Fuck off, bootlicker.

      1. I see the comment section here is as intelligent and articulate as ever.

        1. Hi, Tulpa.

    3. Who pushed first? The answer is important.

    4. By “pushing” the guy, she refused to stop doing something she had a perfect right to do?

      1. I don’t know the laws concerning being an asshole and smoking during a traffic stop. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge with that kind of data. So if I’m in such a situation and a cop asks, or tells me to put out my cigarette, I’ll simply do it with the hopes of getting past the incident and moving on with my life. As much as Reason wants to argue otherwise, Bland was itching for a fight from the start and the stop escalated directly because of her actions.

        I’m not defending cops and cops aren’t perfect. Anybody that goes into a situation with a cop with a confrontational attitude though is an idiot. I’m all for prosecuting bad cops but ignoring situations where the civilian contributed to the escalation of a situation is self defeating for those that really want to police the police.

        1. So when a cop gives an unlawful command, and the citizen refuses to comply with this unlawful command, it is the citizen’s fault when the cop unlawfully unlawfully assaults and unlawfully arrests the citizen?

          1. Obey or die.

    5. hold cops responsible for every bad thing that ever happens

      Well, typically just the assaults, puppicide, and indiscriminate killings, but also false arrests like this. So, yeah, I guess *every* bad thing that *ever* happens.

      Mook.

  4. “Yet the Supreme Court has said a police officer may order a legally detained motorist out of his car at will, no matter how implausible the officer safety rationale is in any particular case.”
    Which Supreme Court? And, of course, if the quote is correct, the opinion regards a “motorist,” not a man/woman and the opinion also references legal authority – not the law of the people. No man, regardless of what he is wearing or what role he is playing, may order another man to do or not do anything. Article XIII, U.S. Constitution.
    Also, did the man acting as a police officer, make an arrest without a warrant? She definitely didn’t commit a felony crime or any other crime for that matter.

    1. I believe that in Texas, all traffic violations are technically arrestable offenses.

      Any TX lawyers out there to confirm/refute?

  5. This case won’t go anywhere. It has already been adjudicated that an LEO may lie. A “police officer” is a paper entity; it is not a man and therefore cannot be punished. If there’s any intent to hold a police officer accountable for his actions, he will be fired and removed from the “force” before he goes to trial. Then he may be tried as a man, not as a police officer. If the offence is serious enough, this is what usually happens.

    1. The officer in question has been fired, according to the evening newscast.

      1. But this is Texas. He can get another cop job elsewhere.

  6. Brian Encinia

    I don’t want to get the identity politics on this from NPR so can I get a ruling here? White Hispanic?

    1. As white as Geraldo Rivera.

    2. Looks and named like Latino.

  7. “And since Bland, who was found dead of an apparent suicide at the Waller County jail three days after Encinia arrested her, probably would still be alive if he had kept his cool ‘

    And the same can be said of Bland if she had kept her cool.

    “Encinia claimed that “I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation.”

    The grand jurors did not buy that. “They just didn’t believe it,”

    Yet the Supreme Court has said a police officer may order a legally detained motorist out of his car at will, no matter how implausible the officer safety rationale is in any particular case.

    Then what diference does it make whether the Grand Jury believes it or not if it is the law of the land according to the SCOTUS ?

    1. Jury nullification? Just asking the lawyers who hang out hereabouts.

    2. Because the SC has ruled that an officer may order a motorist out of his car at will *for officer safety* – and only for officer safety. Meaning that an order to exit the vehicle for other reasons is *not* legal.

      The GJ did not buy that the order to exit the vehicle was for officer safety, only for officer ego – and as such did not get that SC protection.

      1. That’s why he’s being charged with perjury – the GJ believed he *lied* about the officer safety rationale for the order.

      2. This is not going to end in a conviction. For officer safety is so broad that it basically does mean an officer can order out for any reason, and it’s going to be very hard to prove that he lied regardless.

        1. I would think “officer safety” could mean anything like “I thought it safer for us to move away from the side of the road to avoid being hit by traffic.” I just don’t know how something so broadly written can get into the mind of the cop.

    3. Well, he committed perjury in his report, but who hasn’t?

      1. 100% of the police reports that I have read of incidents that I witnessed or were involved in were a mix of lies by fabrication, lies by exaggeration, and lies by omission. The truth was no where to be found.

        1. Which is why people records cops, some going so far as to install dash cams of their own.

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