Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Law Applied Both Ways (Sandra Bland)

Arrest Affidavit
Death is a tragedy, life is a gift and what we don't know or understand that falls between the crack, is the human struggle.

Recently Sandra Bland, a resident of Illinois was arrested under false pretenses for all intensive purposes, based on the evidence that exists at this time. Two Texas lawmakers seem to be in agreement.  This awful incident helps remind us of how hard we need to work to change the part of justice that is misaligned with humanity resulting in injustice.

Prior to the actual encounter, a state police officer who would be known as officer Encinia, observed the subject, (who would become the late Sandra Bland), pass his vehicle after pulling over another individual (whom he issued a traffic warning to); the officer then makes a u-turn, accelerates to catch up to Bland after passing through a traffic light, which is when Bland pulls over to allegedly allow the officer to pass, but he doesn't pass. The Terry Stop allows police to briefly detain a person who they reasonably suspect is involved in criminal activity. But the officer, when he turned his vehicle had no probable cause, nor had reason to employ the Terry Stop, regardless.

Important facts that shape this event, and though I should exercise more objectivity, I won't in this instance. What I hope happens is that the arc of justice bends towards the future rather than drawing on the past and shapes a more balanced law enforcement, whose eyes are wide open to rectify the imbalance that exist for African American people.

There are places where human/ civil rights violations occur more frequently in certain parts of the United States than others.  In such places the incarceration rates are disproportionately escalated and the punishment for those acts that put such people behind bars, is more severe than in other states.  But Sandra Blands' case is different, Sandra Bland's case is the worst example of what goes really wrong when law enforcement officers fail and fail to operate within the word of the law-- which also applies to themselves.  And while this conversation could easily be applied on a grander scale to inappropriate behavior at a federal and international level, the focus here is clear and local.

...Day of Ms. Blands' Death

On Monday, July 13th, 2015, at 7:05 a.m., Waller County Jailers, in the course of conducting their rounds, visually noted that Ms Bland was in good health.  Ms Bland contacted the main control room via cell intercom at 7:55 a.m. Ms Bland was inquiring on how to make a phone call.d contacted the main control room via cell intercom at 7:55 a.m. Ms Bland was inquiring on how to make a phone call.

The State Police officer (Brian Encinia), coming off a traffic stop, made u-turn, accelerated to catch up with Sandra Bland; Sandra Bland was pulled over for what was described as a routine traffic stop; dialogue suggest that she was not aware why she was being pulled based on the dashcam of officer Brian Encinia (fullrecording ); Encinia indicated her failure to use a traffic signal to switch lanes was the reason for pulling Ms. Bland over; Sandra Bland complied with the officer's request for license and registration; Encinia returned to Blands car after several minutes, appears to deliver the ticket for failure to signal; Encinia makes an uncharacteristic request "Can you put your cigarette out please"; Bland invokes her rights not to have to do so and questions why; Encinia insists Bland get out of the car; Encinia states that Bland is under arrest; Bland asks " I under arrest..."; Encinia exclaims "I've given you a lawful order...get out of the car!"... "I will light you up!"

- First issue with Sandra Blands' seizure/ arrest (freedom of movement restrained)
- Second issue: If a person is not under suspicion of illegal behavior, a law enforcement official is not allowed to place an individual under arrest simply because the person refuses to comply with a request to extinguish a cigarette or execute a request that is not associated with a criminal act. There was no probable cause with Sandra Bland. In fact, the officer asked her to put out her cigarette, she refused (exercising her rights) and the officer escalated the event rather than attempting to de-escalate it, directly following her refusal to extinguish it.
-Third issue Probable Cause the probable cause needs to be evidence based; e.g. you are pulled over because you appear to be a public risk while driving; the officer smells alcohol on your breath (now there is probable cause).  

From here the event escalates to a confrontation.  However, though it seems that this and the failure to use a turn signal might be the start of this event; it actually goes back to the point as which Encinia decides to unlawfully follow Bland.  The why is simple, an officer cannot pursue a subject without probable cause.  There additionally needs to be evidence to warrant probable cause.  Neither exists in this case. But not even a Terry Stop would apply in this instance, these reflect the first failure of power and authority-- which is missing the key word, self discipline.  The belief that or the failure to understand and implement the rule of law as it applies to officers as well as the public.  Police or law enforcement officials are not exempt from the rule of law itself. Further, a person is detained when circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe her is not free to leave

Encinia should never have turned his car around, accelerated to catch up with Bland, if probable cause did not exist in the first place.  "...facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information" (search and seizure/ probable cause [Bill of Rights, Fourth Amendment])

Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in the opinion of the Court: “[t]he tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s ‘mission’ — to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, and attend to related safety concerns.” A police stop “may ‘last no longer than is necessary to effectuate th[at] purpose.’ Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are — or reasonably should have been — completed.”

Just Before Blands' Death...
At 8:58 a.m., jailer went to cell 95 to inquire if Ms Bland wanted to go to the recreation hall. The jailer looked through the window and observed Ms Bland hanging from a privacy partition in her cell. (transcripts from Waller County Sheriff's Office)

Failure With Power & Authority
We witness the collapse of a healthy structure of power and authority as they are idealized in the examples of police misconduct; with Eric Garner who shouted "I can't breathe...!" to Sandra Bland who exercised her rights after a request to from Encinia "Can you put your cigarette out please... ", " are under arrest!"(Officer Encinia). Additionally A person is detained when circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe her is not free to leave(U.S. v. Mendenhall 1980).
Human decision making is a peculiar thing, psychologist express differing opinions when discussing it. From a sociological perspective, Modern society is irrational for failing to meet the needs of so many of its people (Marcuse 1964).  ...everyday life means coping with a gnawing sense of powerlessness(Newman 1993). 
Events such as the example of Sandra Bland are not due to her personal sense of powerlessness, but because of imposing authority demonstrated by officer Encinia.

While Bland's language and attitude could have been different, she is also protected by the Freedom of Speech making her frustration with the event and the officer a non-sequitur. While it is easy to make this a case of racial profiling, a more significant case could be made by insisting that education and accountability be at the forefront of police training along with firm expectations.

Unfortunately Sandra Blands' life has come to an end; there is significant ambiguity surround her death and hopefully investigators will come up with evidence that offers the family of Ms. Bland, an explanation giving them closure.

Request for actual transcript available through Texas Public Information Act
Waller County Sheriffs fb page
Submit a written request here:
Waller County Sheriff's Office
Attn: Records
701 Calvit Street
Hempstead, TX 77445
or here:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


[2] Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena.

Merriam Webster
:  [1] the state or experience of one that suffers

A brief look at the days' news headlines, and it is not difficult to see; the impact of war, the struggle to pull people out of poverty, deteriorating environment, from glaciers to endangered species, disease, famine etc. And though the two definitions above both suggest that suffering is a human experience, not until Wikipedias' second explanation (listed above) do they infer suffering in the boarder sense of things not human as well.  This is the context in which this article is written.

This morning I woke up at approximately 4:00 a.m. EST, disturbed by the matter of suffering; different images and thoughts entering my mind about suffering from a historical perspective to modern day.  For over an hour I could not shake the visions and thoughts from my mind.  I don't generally have a propensity towards these thoughts, but they arise periodically; it is not an emotional struggle in the sense that it disturbs my thought process, but more along the lines of an overwhelming desire for a different sense of the human experience as it relates to all things that result in, interact with or are some part based on human actions as a causal factor of suffering.

After reflecting on a statement captured from a food critic on a local Boston radio show, a rather odd source to be sure; it helped create some context for this approach for suffering.  The essence of the food critic's argument was that farm-to-table  is a way of life and not a propaganda technique to get people or consumers in the restaurant.  We cannot use propaganda to end suffering. Authentically doing something about suffering actually holds  value.  Perhaps that is not the most productive way to put it, because there are multiple agents of change who "want to do something about it", but where does the real change occur?  What type of campaign, commitment, determination, endurance and perseverance would it take to ensure suffering comes to an end?  Can we achieve that?  Authenticity however, may suggest something all together different, a more active role in ending suffering.

By saying or assuming ending suffering is not possible, not related to personal injuries of course, then why would we attempt to change the course of events at all?  Does that result in some sort of fatalistic view that there is no hope.  Yet and still, even the sound of the word "hope", brings with it an air of never-going-to-happeness.  It is that very sense of jargon, and hyperbole that often results in the autonomic response of head-nodding.  Out of the jargon jar, and into a more productive script may be one possibility; that with a lot of will power, political effort and fundamental shift in the way humanity thinks about suffering and the ability to end it, that we perhaps will emerge on the other side.

This article will begin a short journey into my exploration of suffering, and what we will do, are doing and can do to end it.  My initial thoughts are that it requires a never ending effort, the kind of effort business people put into running their company, but with a different objective.

All of this begins with the belief that suffering exceeds all other priorities and that it is not limited to people, but animals, the environment or anything else that is subject to virulent exploitation by the human species.  Ending suffering is a way of life.

I look forward to discussions and insights.  I can also be reached on twitter @scotlandwillis

Monday, May 4, 2015

Freedom & Liberation

Mans greatest ambition is not to be better than anyone else, mans greatest ambition is to live free; it is the sense of freedom that comes from doing something that no one else has done--can do, that liberates one from all others and all other attachments; it is why we marvel as what we have not yet seen. Live free or die

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sex in a Series

The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality states that "Women are more likely than men to feel that a poor sex life is an unfortunate, but separate part of the couple’s relationship. Men are more likely to feel that a poor sex life undermines the entire relationship."

While some of their research goes back to the late 1990's, it is difficult to believe the full breadth of this research.  Times have changed, in a variety of ways.  There is research that the physical strength of women is increasing more rapidly than that of men; but that is just a semblance of what changes are occurring in our society among women and men.

Just as womens' physical state is advancing so to is there thinking.  And this brings us to the topic in this article.

This is completely non-scientific in nature, merely an opportunity to share a few thoughts.

As times have changed regarding sexuality and the liberation of women's commitment requirements, sex for women seems also to have emerged in a whole new light.  Women are no longer locked down due to advances in the medical industry i.e. The Pill.  Other advances in the Day After product, also allow women to have more control over the outcome of pregnancy.  Controls such as these also play a role in what opportunities women have; in the workplace, among competitors etc.

Emerging on the other side, women of today could very easily feel differently about the role of sex in a relationship. Most importantly perception of a poor sex life with a partner has also evolved.  Television programs seem to be an accurate reflection about the more carefree nature of female sexuality, e.g. Sex In The City, promiscuity, and sexuality experiences for pleasure rather than commitment.  This is not a broad statement of the character of women today, but rather a suggestion that the opportunities for vastly different perspectives on how women are expected to behave is different.  Rather than this being a bad thing, it is really just a thing-- call it evolution of the woman.

With downturns in religious commitments, increase in divorce rates and a broader length of time women are remaining unwed, all seem to trend towards a more independently minded woman.  And it seems that the line between women and men's belief that sex undermines the entire relationship, might be thinning.

I welcome the change, not in terms of a value system of ones integrity but rather the equanimity between men and women.  Sure we are different physiological creatures wired differently psychology, but what lies over the horizon for society can only be great, a place where the other is challenged by the privileges of control.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Germanwings / Lufthansa Solutions

One Possible Solution

Lufthansa Flight Solutions
There is a solution to the locked door. In the mid 1990s Electronic Data Systems, Hughes Electronics and GM developed OnStar; this satellite system could be used as a secondary backup for extreme scenarios such as with the Lufthansa/ Germanwings flight. This remotely controlled apparatus, would be engage by a pilot, face with the current situation of Germanwings. 

The pilot would carry an emergency warning mechanism that could transmit a signal to the radio control tower over the geographic area in which it is flying;  It could employ biometric recognition, issued by the airline carrier so that no one else could steal it and use the device.  With today's transmitters and nanotechnology, I believe this is quite possible.

Digital Globe launched one of the most powerful satellites in Aug. 2014; this device would seem to have the necessary power to engage in such a task. It is a fine line however as you risk infiltration (hackers) but a type of firewall could be developed and the main control would reside in each air traffic control tower under the NTSB. Nonetheless, there are potential applications for use of this technology.