Fox News Host Suggests That Cop Felt Threatened By Sandra Bland’s Cigarette

Everyone who has looked at the dashcam video of the Sandra Bland traffic stop in Texas agrees that the officer involved stepped over the line when he removed Bland from her vehicle and threatened to use his taser on her. Well, almost everyone. Hello, Fox News.

On the July 27 edition of Fox and Friends, host Elisabeth Hasselbeck revisits the video, along with an expert on police, former NYPD officer John Rafferty. Hasselbeck and Rafferty look at several segments of the dashcam video. The first segment shows Officer Brian Encinia approaching Bland’s vehicle and explaining why he had pulled her over. Rafferty tells Hasselbeck that at that point, everything looks like a normal traffic stop.

Then they go back for part two of the video, which shows Encinia commenting to Bland that she appears to be irritated. Rafferty explains that the best thing to do is to write the ticket, then move on. “There’s no benefit in interacting with somebody who is already hostile and upset,” he says.

Part three of the edited video shows Encinia asking Bland to put out her cigarette, and her response that she is in her car. That is followed by an escalation of the situation by Encinia. Hasselbeck asks Rafferty where he thinks Encinia went over the line, “if at all?” Rafferty replies that since his own department has placed Encinia on administrative leave, they believe that his behavior crossed the line. Rafferty says that he thinks Encinia took Bland’s refusal to put out her cigarette “too personal.”

That explanation isn’t good enough for Hasselbeck, who says to Rafferty:

“But, what if, I mean, there are times, I’m sure, someone has, in the history of this land, used a cigarette against a police officer, maybe chucked it at him, pushed it at him.”

Rafferty says that, yes, people have done things like that before. So, wasn’t it wise for Encinia to ask Bland to put out her cigarette, Hasselbeck asks. Rafferty is non-committal. He says that officers have to keep in mind that they are on camera, and that their conduct will be evaluated by that camera. But Rafferty says that, yes, an officer can feel threatened by a cigarette. He tells Hasselbeck:

“I wouldn’t want somebody stepping out with a cigarette. I mean, I’ve had a cigarette tried to be — I’ve had somebody try to put a cigarette out on me.

So in the Fox News universe, the cigarette, not the officer’s conduct, becomes the focal point of the incident. Oh, this officer was threatened by a black woman with a cigarette! Rafferty sort of buys into Hasselbeck’s line, although he doesn’t appear to be completely comfortable with it.

Law professor, and former police officer, Seth Stoughton, writing at Talking Points Memo, has a different take on the situation. Stoughton says that while Bland’s arrest was lawful, it was not good policing. After outlining the subtle ways that Encinia escalated the situation (which would be totally lost on Hasselbeck and the Fox audience), Stoughton says:

Encinia next asks Bland to put out her cigarette. Notice that I use the word “asks.” There is a difference between a command and a request. A command is an order that the officer has legal authority to enforce. Failing to comply with a command can result in arrest or, if necessary, the use of physical force to overcome resistance. A request is altogether different; a preference that the officer would like someone to voluntarily accede to, but lacks the legal authority to require. Asking Bland to put out the cigarette she was smoking while sitting in her own car was a request, and one that she was well within her rights to decline.

In the Fox News universe, apparently anything a black person is carrying is a potential weapon. It was Skittles and iced tea in the Trayvon Martin case. Now it’s a cigarette.

 

Reprinted with permission from Addicting Info