The attention-grabbing arrest of Sandra Bland at the side of a Texas road on July 10 isn’t all that is depicted in the dash-cam video released late yesterday by the state’s Department of Public Safety. There’s also a quieter conversation, about halfway through the 52-plus minute video (and well after the arrest has been made), between the arresting officer, Brian Encinia, and his sergeant.
Talking on the phone after things have calmed down, Encinia and his boss sound like they may be discussing how Encinia is going to portray his side of what happened. At one point, he reads aloud the definitions of “assault” and “resisting arrest,” as if trying to decide which charge Bland was guilty of. Later, he laughs in response to something the sergeant has said, then says, “No, I mean, I got some cuts on my hand, that’s, I mean I guess it is an injury.”
Different viewers of this footage will have different interpretations of what the conversation is about, especially since we cannot hear what the sergeant is telling Encinia. At the very least, it offers a rare glimpse — unavailable after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson or in the several days after Freddie Gray’s death, when police in Baltimore remained eerily silent — of what cops talk about in the wake of these highly charged, potentially newsworthy incidents.
Below, two key clips — with accompanying transcripts — of the conversation:
I mean I don’t have serious bodily injury.
You know, but I, but I was kicked.
Assault is if…right, assault is if a person commits [an offense of?] intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another… You intentionally threaten [another imminent bodily injury?], including the person’s [?].
She’s in the back of the car right now. She [never requested EMS?].
She said, she said I, I threw her down intentionally. For nothing.
I said, “All right, I put you down because you kicked me, you’re fighting back, you know.”
And I kept telling her to calm down, calm down.
Evading arrest or detention [is a person?] commits an offense if he, if he intentionally —
Oh, resisting arrest…[?]
Quotation: If they are…the person commits a offense if they intentionally prevent or obstruct a person [he knows?] a peace officer or a person acting as a peace officer from effecting an arrest, search, or transportation.
She was detained.
That’s, that’s the key, that’s why I’m calling you and asking because…she was detained, okay, and once she started, uh, and that’s when I was walking over to the car, just to calm her down, you know, and just, stop, and that’s when she started kicking me, so, I mean, I…
I don’t know if it would be resist, or if it would be, uh, assault, you know…
I kind of lean toward assault, versus arrest — resist — because… I mean technic — technically she’s under arrest when the traffic stop is initiated. That’s a lawful, you know, you’re stopped, you’re not free to go.
I didn’t say, “You’re under arrest.” I never said, you know, “Stop, hands up!”
Correct, that did not occur.
There was just the assault [?].
Like I said, uh, after I get it all situated, and, and, uh, buttoned up, to as far as getting her in a, a safe vehicle — under arrest, uh, and that’s why I’m calling you.
And like I said, if it’s something like this, I, I just call you immediately, after I get to a safe stopping point.
I mean, no weapons, she’s in handcuffs, you know, I, I took the lesser of the uh — I only took enough... force as I…see necessary. I even de-escalated once we were on the pavement, you know, on the sidewalk.
So I allowed time — I’m, I’m not saying I just threw her to the ground, I mean, I allowed time…to de-escalate, and, and, and so forth… It just kept being —
I’m — right, I just — making it clear.
No, I mean, I got some cuts on my hand, that’s, I mean I guess it is an injury, but I’m not, I don’t need medical attention, you know, I’m just a little… I got three little circles, from I guess the handcuffs when I was, when she was twisting away from me…
You know, over a, over a simple traffic stop.
Yeah I don’t get it, I really don’t.