Justice

DOJ Head Says Sandra Bland’s Death Epitomizes Police’s Broken Relationship With Black Community

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sandra Bland’s death while in police custody earlier this month taps into deep-seated fears within the black community: that interactions with law enforcement too frequently end fatally.

The Justice Department’s (DOJ) first African-American woman attorney general told Pierre Thomas in an ABC News interview Sunday that Bland’s death “highlights the concern of many in the black community that a routine stop for many members of the black community is not handled with the same professionalism and courtesy that other people may get from the police.”

Bland’s death was officially reported as a suicide but is being treated like a homicide investigation. But there’s much public speculation around the 28-year-old’s arrest, death, and its subsequent investigation. Bland was held for three days by the Texas Department of Public Safety for a routine traffic stop — allegedly for not using a signal when changing lanes. Before her death, Bland was expecting to start a new job and attempted to post bail, raising doubt that she would want to harm herself. Also, tampering is suspected regarding police dash cam footage from the arrest.

The YouTube video uploaded by the Texas Department of Public Safety depicts a tow truck driver leaving his vehicle and approaching the Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia’s car. The video then shows seconds later the same interaction without digital interruption and Encinia can be heard recalling the traffic stop with Bland encounter. Later in the video, a white car appears and disappears twice before reentering the frame to make a left turn. Encinia’s voice audio continues throughout the scenes without interruption.

“We have a situation where many minority communities for so long have felt that law enforcement was coming in essentially to enforce laws against them, not to protect them.” Lynch said Sunday. “I do think that what has been a important part of the debate in Miss Bland’s death has been the discussions that we’ve seen from community members and police leaders alike…about the importance of training and deescalating incidents.”

Despite Congress delaying her appointment and only being in office a few months, Lynch has wasted no time to bring about change to the DOJ at a time when tensions between police and civilians are running high. She’s been vocal about police tactics and taking a different approach by boosting morale and finding a healing ground between police and marginalized communities of color. In May, Lynch spearheaded an investigation into Baltimore Police Department over the death of Freddie Gray, a black teen who died in police custody. She also took on several FIFA officials, soccer’s international governing agency, for corruption.