The most recent video evidence of police brutality against African Americans was released today, and viewers can't help but draw similarities between Sam DuBose and Sandra Bland and their police-related deaths. Bland, who reportedly hanged herself earlier this month in her Texas jail cell, was arrested after a traffic stop turned violent. Footage of her arrest shows officer Brian Encinia acting overly aggressive and threatening to "light" Bland up. Meanwhile, DuBose was shot point blank by University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing as the father of 10 appeared to drive away.
The videos are chilling on their own, but when you view them together, especially in conjunction with numerous other police brutality videos, there are inescapable patterns. And there are two glaring similarities: Both victims were black, and neither deserved to die as the result of a traffic violation. But the differences between the aftermath of the cases are disheartening — for example, Tensing, was indicted on murder charges Wednesday. Encinia, who harassed Bland and (indirectly) may have led to her death, was placed on desk duty.
(Warning: The video contains graphic content, including the moment of DuBose's death. The shooting occurs at approximately 1:50.)
Although they are two very different cases, the similarity between Bland's and DuBose's police interactions, as well as the video evidence, speaks volumes about the relationship between police officers and black citizens.
1) A Routine Traffic Stop Turned Unnecessarily Violent
Bland reportedly failed to signal before changing lanes, while DuBose allegedly did not have a front license plate. Neither are particularly dangerous offenses, or even all that serious, but both instances would legally warrant a police stop. However, Bland's agitation and anxiety over being stopped doesn't excuse being threatened with a Taser and subsequently arrested. Though DuBose appeared to put his key back in the car's ignition, the police body cam shows the unarmed man was extremely polite and compliant throughout the entire encounter.
It's not a stretch to say that if DuBose was a different race or had interacted with a different officer, he likely would have been fined or arrested for speeding away — not shot. And it's hard to come to terms with the idea that Bland's refusal to put out her cigarette was justification for an arrest.
2) The Officers' Aggression Came Out Of Nowhere
One of the more surprising aspects of the DuBose video is that Tensing is pretty level-headed and civil with DuBose throughout the entire interaction, which makes his sudden escalation so much more bizarre. At the first sign of trouble, Tensing's gut reaction was not just to pull his weapon, but to pull and discharge at point-blank range. In the timespan of three minutes, he went from being a friendly officer to an executioner.
From the start, Encinia was hardly friendly with Bland, but he did initiate a normal traffic stop. When he noticed Bland was agitated, he asked her why. When she explained why she was upset, Encinia sounded offended and asked her to put out her cigarette. When she didn't, he insisted that she get out of the care. The audio clearly shows Bland asking why, which is when Encinia became extremely aggressive in his manner and tone.
3) Both Officers Tried To Remove Bland And DuBose From Their Vehicles
In each video, the situation escalated after the officer attempted to remove the individuals from their vehicles. It's unclear why Encinia felt that refusing to put out a cigarette was means to remove Bland from her vehicle. For DuBose, Tensing asked him to take off his seat belt and began to open his door. In both situations, Bland and DuBose became visibly agitated: she began actively arguing, and DuBose tried to drive away.
4) DuBose and Bland Were Clearly Scared
To large parts of the population, it's unfathomable why you would be uncomfortable or scared during a police stop. But for many minorities — especially African Americans — it's unsurprising that police presence might make them nervous. The headlines have been full of articles about police brutality and unfair treatment against black citizens, and according to the NAACP, black people are more likely to go to prison than white people. Both videos prove that Bland and DuBose were agitated and scared in their own ways.
5) Both Officers Claimed Self Defense
Tensing reportedly told investigators he fired at DuBose because he was scared of being run over by his car, while Encinia repeatedly mentioned Bland kicked him and he received cuts to his hands. Yet after seeing Tensing's body camera recording during the DuBose stop, it does make one wonder why didn't he simply step away from the car? He had the time and ability and instead went toward the car, firing a shot into DuBose's vehicle. Unfortunately, the video of Bland's arrest only contains the audio of her actual arrest. While it sounds like there was definitely a struggle, there is no clear video evidence that Bland assaulted Encinia.
6) Not Even Their Police Departments Thought The Officers Were Correct
The Texas Department of Public Safety pulled Encinia off of street duty because they found that he was in violation of policy, citing he failed to properly explain consequences to Bland. The University of Cincinnati Police Department, where Tensing worked, released him from service immediately and a grand jury on Wednesday determined there was enough conclusive evidence to indict Tensing on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges.