We may never know what really happened to Sandra Bland.
Regardless, it's very sad. No matter how she ended up in that Texas jail cell, the fact that she was in such a dark place following her arrest that she, seemingly, decided to end her own life is enough.
Yet it's very obvious now that Bland never should have been behind bars. Her experience, as captured on camera, is a good example of why African Americans say they feel nervous during interactions with police.
It's a bit like one of those commercials about texting and driving, where you see the often difficult to watch details of what happens as the car spins and rolls in an accident. The dash cam video is like a PSA for anyone who isn't sure what those protestors in Baltimore, New York City, and Ferguson were going on about.
As I've said before, I am a fan of police officers. They are brave men and women who swear to protect the public, sometimes putting their lives on the line to do so. That deserves respect.
But, let's be honest. When we're driving down the street, regardless of race or ethnicity, and we look in the rear view mirror to see a cop car, we immediately get nervous.
After all, for most citizens who are not doing anything wrong, they are not the people police are out looking for. They are not "out to get us."
Still, there is a fear, even if it's small, that we may have done something wrong. Regardless of ignorance to whatever law we did or did not follow, we're afraid of the potential consequences that we really have no control over.
And we don't have that control because we gave it up in order to be protected. Police officers are given more authority in exchange for keeping the community safe. While there are guidelines they must follow by law, naturally gray areas exist.
Take Bland's traffic stop. Things begin to escalate when the officer mentions that she seems irritated and Bland responds in a short-tempered manner.
Again, of course she's upset. But the officer does not do anything to diffuse the situation, instead asking in a sarcastic tone "Are you done?"
He then asks Bland to put out her cigarette. It's understandable, but more of a request since an officer cannot, to my knowledge, demand someone to do anything unless than something is hindering an investigation or police efforts.
The officer acts like it does, so when Bland refuses he orders her out of the car. Once she refuses to do this, he, by law, has reason to taker her into custody.
The situation goes on, Bland ends up behind bars, and we all know the rest.
Gray areas in police action can be good. They can help officers who may not have as much concrete evidence still obtain probable cause and enable them to bust a bad guy.
However, it's the instances where those gray areas are not used for good which we are all at least a little afraid of. Until we see that small amount of officers be fairly punished for using the law against citizens instead of to help them, this fear will persist and cases like Bland's will continue to surface.