From the traffic stop and arrest in July of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas, came a fundamental lesson for cops on the importance of carrying out their jobs professionally. That came across clearly in police dashcam video of the arrest of the Naperville resident. We saw a Texas state trooper quickly lose his cool and watched a routine traffic stop spiral into a disturbing arrest.
Last week came another lesson: Be truthful. If not, your job could be on the line. That’s the message a grand jury delivered when it indicted the officer, Brian Encinia, on misdemeanor perjury charges relating to an affidavit he filed on Bland’s arrest.
Understandably, that will not bring consolation to Bland’s family and friends who continue to mourn her death of an apparent suicide in her jail cell three days after her arrest.
But the lessons should not be lost on members of law enforcement who take liberties with the facts when filing police reports.
In Chicago, reports filed by cops in the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald by then-Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke do not match police dashcam video. We have known this for a month. Yet, we’re still waiting to hear how police brass handled the discrepancies between the video and statements given by officers on the scene. Is anyone being held accountable for glaring inconsistencies?
Encinia apparently will lose his job. The Texas Department of Public Safety immediately began termination proceedings against the officer, who had been placed on administrative duty after his superiors began investigating the arrest.
Darrell Jordan, a special prosecutor in the case, told the Houston Chronicle the grand jury’s indictment arose from Encinia’s statement in a one-page affidavit on Bland’s arrest. He said he pulled Bland from her car to “further conduct a safe traffic investigation.”
“They just didn’t believe it,” Jordan told the Chronicle.
Two factors contributed to Encinia’s downfall: The dashcam video and, more significantly, sustained public pressure to get to the truth.
Encinia’s case ultimately will be decided in court, as it should be, but the indictment by a grand jury should send a signal to cops and their bosses that the public is tired of police altering facts to suit them or their peers. It contributes to a code of silence, gives good cops a bad name and interferes with justice.
Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: @csteditorials