HEMPSTEAD, Texas — Initially, activist Sandra Bland’s death in police custody following a routine traffic stop was very questionably termed “suicide.” But many people, including investigators, are looking askance at the county sheriff who was previously fired on allegations of racism and police brutality, the media has reported.
The circumstances of Bland’s brutal arrest, which included being slammed face first into the pavement, and then being held in jail for such a long time for a lane-change offense, has attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
First order of contention: Bland died three days after being taken into custody, the ABC Chicago affiliate stated. Her crime? She made an illegal lane change. Local authorities said she was combative with officers, which was why she was in jail for three days.
Second order of contention: Bland was a vocal activist of the “Black Lives Matter” movement in metro Chicago as well as in the historically black Prairie View A&M University school she attended and spoke out often against police brutality, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Bland was said to be excited to be moving to Texas from suburban Chicago, so says the Tribune, even though she had spoken about depression previously. She had bounced between unsatisfying and was excited about her new community outreach job in the South. For friends and family, she had found her niche and was coming into her own.
Third point of contention: The sheriff of the Waller County in which Bland’s alma mater Prairie View A&M University is located, and where Bland had just been hired at a few days ago, has been fired from his previous police job amid accusations of racism and brutality and disrespect to black children. According to Shaun King of the Daily Kos:
“Sheriff (Glenn) Smith was fired from a previous job as police chief in 2008 after several allegations that he and members of his department had engaged in racially biased behavior and police brutality,” the Kos reported.
The Houston Chronicle and at TV reporter both corroborate the Daily Kos’ account that Sheriff Glenn Smith was fired by the Hempstead City Council after several allegations of police misconduct, even though “not all of which involved racial issues.”
What are the reasons for the firing of Sheriff Smith?
The council did not disclose why Smith was terminated. However, the the Houston Chronicle reported before the firing on an incident in which council members suspended Smith “for two weeks without pay after viewing videotapes and hearing allegations of racism from local residents against him” as well as fellow policemen, effectively creating a toxic environment from which unabated racism was allowed to germinate and infest the department. \
Later, the Chronicle reported in 2008 that during Smith’s campaign for Waller County sheriff said he may have been fired because of “incidents involving police misconduct toward African-Americans,” and even reportedly mentioned a raid on the wrong home housing African American males who were ordered to strip naked during the search.
Perhaps because of these combined factors, the U.S. Department of Justice has joined local authorities in the investigation.