Thursday, July 23, 2015

Who Gets a Ticket, or Worse

I'm getting on the road today, so I don't have much time to post. I've been thinking a lot about the Sandra Bland police stop (and her subsequent suicide), and wanted to share this post by Michael Leddy about the cop's previous stop, which happened just minutes before he pulled Bland to the side of the road. Michael took the time to watch the whole video, while I have not. He even transcribed the trooper's side of the conversation, which shows the trooper letting off a college student for speeding, even though s/he had no proof of insurance.

I've been stopped for traffic infractions three times in my life.

  • Speeding on an interstate, 1986, going 72 in a 55 zone. White female trooper. Got a ticket.
  • Speeding on a county road, 2008, going 52 in a 35 (hey, I was in a excuse). White male surburban town police. No ticket, just a warning.
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign on a residential city street, 2014. Black male city police. I got a ticket, which I thoroughly deserved. (I didn't blow through the stop sign, but it was nowhere near a full stop either.)
I know three times does not a pattern make, but I've always found it interesting that I, a white woman, was let off by the white man but not the white woman or the black man.

The one thing that stands out for me in the parts of the Texas traffic stop video I've watched is the moment when the trooper asks Bland to put out her cigarette as she sits in her car and he stands outside the window. His tone is clearly annoyed (listen to how he says "please"), and after he finishes speaking, there's a long pause before she answers. I think Sandra Bland thought hard in that second or two about whether to go along with him or not, and decided she had had enough.

It was a fateful decision, but one she was legally entitled to make.

1 comment:

Gina said...

The Sandra Bland case is truly appalling. The Texas State Trooper clearly lacked the training to be able to assess what he needed to address during the traffic stop and what he needed to let go. We cannot have troopers in any state going off half-cocked just because they get irritated by a driver's behavior or tone. Bland was not threatening at all. The trooper should have given her the ticket and walked away. Instead, he escalated the situation and then arrested her, really, for no good reason. I've not been stopped but I've been a passenger when a friend and I were stopped twice. Once was for a tail light that was out. The second time was unnecessary (we both agreed) -- the cop car happened to be behind us on a residential street when we stopped so she could drop me off at home. We talked for a minute and the cop, rather than going around us (we were not blocking the street but also not pulled over to the curb) got out of his car and addressed us, telling us that if we were going to talk we need to pull over to the curb and park. He didn't ticket my friend or anything, but he went on a bit of a rant. Clearly was having a slow night in Linden Hills. When he left, my friend and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, then I got out of the car. At both stops, the cops were white males and we're white females.