The tragic in custody death of Sandra Bland is once again in the news. The arresting officer, Brian Encinia, has now been formally terminated from his job with the Texas Department of Public Safety. In a widely seen video, Encinia is seen arguing with Bland and violently slamming her to the ground during a traffic stop. Encinia became enraged when Bland refused to put out her cigarette that she was smoking in her car. Bland died three days later in police custody, the victim of an apparent suicide.
But the conduct of Encinia during the traffic stop was a matter of heated public discussion and subsequent allegations of misconduct. In a letter dated January 28, 2016, Texas Public Safety Director Steve McCraw found that there was just cause to terminate Encinia over the allegations as follows:
-During the traffic stop of Sandra Bland on July 10, 2015, you failed to remain courteous and tactful in the performance of your duties. You engaged in argumentative discussions with Ms.Bland and you failed to exercise patience and discretion throughout the contact.
-During the encounter described in Allegation I, you prolonged the traffic stop beyond the time reasonably necessary to complete the tasks associated with the traffic infraction. Consequently, you extended Ms.Bland’s detention without a reasonable justification or legitimate investigative purpose for doing so.
-During the encounter identified m Allegation I, you failed to follow the seven-step violator interview.
Encinia was given a chance to respond to the allegations during a meeting on February 5, 2016 and a final determination was made on March 1, 2016. McCraw states in a letter to Encinia, “I have carefully considered all the points raised by you in our meeting on February 5, 2016. I have determined that you have not rebutted the charges set out in the statement of charges of January 28, 2016. No cause has been presented to alter my preliminary decision. Therefore, it is now my decision that you be discharged from the Texas Department of Public Safety effective at 5:00p.m., upon the date you receive this letter, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 411.007, Government Code.”
In January 2016, a Waller County grand jury indicted Encinia with misdemeanor perjury after finding he lied about his encounter with Sandra Bland. If he is convicted of the charge, he could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and a $4K fine.