Black activist Sandra Bland’s recent death in a Texas jail after a confrontational traffic stop emphasizes why many black Americans worry about interacting with police, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an interview that aired Sunday. Authorities allege Bland committed suicide in custody July 13, three days after an officer stopped her for not using a turn signal while changing lanes.
“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 on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think that it highlights the concern of many in the black community that a routine stop for many of the members of the black community is not handled with the same professionalism and courtesy that other people may get from the police.”
Dashboard camera footage released this week appeared to show Officer Brian Encinia threatening Bland with a Taser when she refused to put out her cigarette after being pulled over. Bland said she didn’t want to step out of the car, and Encinia insisted, saying, “I will light you up,” NBC News reported.
As Bland is arrested, she cries and complains he’s hurting her wrists. But Encinia wrote in the arrest report she had swung her elbows and kicked him, saying overall she was being “combative and uncooperative.” Bland was charged with assaulting a police officer.
Protesters have questioned the interaction while friends and family members have raised suspicions about the circumstances of Bland’s death. Many have linked her case to others in which black Americans died after facing off with white law enforcement officers, like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City, or Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Lynch said Sunday that police departments also feel frustrated in these incidents. “I think they feel that they get the scrutiny...they get the complaints and the criticism, and they don't get the support,” she added.
Lynch went on to say the debate around Bland's death has inspired important discussions about training officers in how to de-escalate incidents. She has not opened a federal investigation into the case.