Bland died in police custody after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. She was taken into custody after refusing to put out her cigarette while she was in her vehicle. Bland was an activist who spoke out against police brutality and racism.
According to the findings published in The Huffington Post, there are some major issues with the commission that Waller County sheriff Glenn Smith promised to convene. The first issue has to do with a conflict of interest between Sheriff Smith and attorney Paul Looney, a local defense attorney who was appointed to lead the commission as well as choose the five other people who were supposed to serve on the commission.
Smith was evidently fired from a previous post for incidences of racial bias and brutality, and Looney has a cozy relationship with Waller County. Looney’s law firm was paid to send clients to Carbett “Trey” Duhon III, Waller County’s top elected official who runs the county’s “commissioners’ court” better known as the city council. Duhon would be the person ultimately responsible for approving a settlement between the county and Bland’s family. The existence of a financial relationship between Looney’s firm and Duhon III is not a good look.
Another issue is the fact that the panel has not been given a deadline by which to complete their review of the case. As if the lack of a deadline is not enough, there also seems to be a lack of intent for action. In Looney’s own words, he states, “We’re not trying to do an expose. It’s more in the nature of a consultant report for the sheriff to use as he wants. He can read it or not read it. If he wants to throw the whole thing in the trash can, he can.”
Even before the revelations of conflicts of interest and a lack of deliberate effort on the part of commission members, many pleas have been made to the Department of Justice, including an online petition, for their to be a federal investigation into Bland’s death.
Despite Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s own words in which she says that Bland’s death “highlights the concern of many in the Black community that a routine stop for many members of the Black community is not handled with the same professionalism and courtesy that other people may get from the police,” the DOJ still has not opened an investigation into the matter.
Sadly, it appears as though Sandra Bland will not receive any more due diligence or justice than Eric Garner or Tamir Rice. As Race Forward board member Rashad Robinson states,
Sandra Bland’s family members lost their loved one because these elected officials have allowed discriminatory police violence and the highly unjust practice of for-profit bail to continue unabated. Their corruption is the reason why more than two months later not one person has been prosecuted or held accountable for Sandra’s death, despite more than enough video footage and evidence to do so. It’s shameful, and yet our national leaders sit by and do nothing. …
Paul Looney, Sheriff Glenn Smith and DA Elton Mathis must be removed from office and prosecuted for their criminal negligence. It’s imperative that Department of Justice uses its power to overhaul the policies and practices that led to Sandra’s death and hold all those responsible accountable.”