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Sandra Bland Hearing: Texas’ Top Cop Told ‘A Lot of People are Afraid of You Guys’

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Steve McCraw, was told during a Texas House committee investigatory hearing – “A lot of people are afraid of you guys.” The hearing was called in the wake of the arrest of Sandra Bland by a Texas DPS trooper. The comment came from staunch conservative State Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford).

Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell three days after her arrest by a DPS trooper for allegedly resisting arrest and disobeying a lawful order. An autopsy report says her death was from suicide. Sandra Bland’s arrest and how she was treated after that arrest, has been the focus of national attention.

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Stickland (R-Bedford) made the statement above to the DPS director, but the statement represented the sentiment of the lawmakers on the committee.

The Texas House Committee on County Affairs held a hearing in the State Capitol on Thursday to question law enforcement and jail officials about jail standards in the state. They also questioned them about procedures for dealing with potentially mentally ill people in county jails.

Another purpose of the hearing, and expressly stated in the hearing notice, was to examine the interaction between the general public and peace officers in the state.

It is this latter topic that brought the most emotion during Thursday’s long hearing.

Rep. Stickland told the committee and the witnesses called to testify before the committee, that he wants to “tie the hands of law enforcement officers” with regard to how they treat citizens who are the subject of a traffic stop.

Lawmakers also expressed the desire to limit the types of offenses that individuals can be arrested for as a result of only a traffic stop.

The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) was quite candid, and said he wanted to also talk about the issue of “driving while black.”

The Houston representative is a black American and he has been quite open about his personal struggles with mental health issues.

Coleman quipped but was quite serious when he said, “I have been black all my life.” He then discussed some of his personal experiences growing up in Houston. He charged that in the past, the local police department “epitomized some of the worst of the worst.”

The Chairman of the House committee took another point of privilege as he described it and said, “You don’t know how angry black folks are.” He said, he was one of those folks.

The bi-partisan committee was sensitive to racial issues, and to those in Texas jails who are suffering from mental illness. They also asked questions about the care of those whose mental state may deteriorate under the stress of incarceration.

Stickland asked whether there were any laws that made it a crime for a law enforcement officer to lie, McCraw told him it depended on the circumstances. Stickland said that made him “shiver.”

Lawmakers also expressed the desire to limit the types of offenses that individuals can be arrested for as a result of only a traffic stop.

Some were also quite vocal in asking for the termination of the trooper who arrested Bland.

McCraw responded that the constitution and due process applies to a state trooper as much as it does to other citizens. The DPS director said he would not be forced to quick action even though it would take him off the hot-seat on the witness stand.

As his time to testify came to an end, Rep. Coleman told the DPS director, “I want to thank you for being here to take the brunt of a lot of people that aren’t DPS.”

During Thursdays hearing, there was no discussion about the personal responsibility of individuals who are pulled over for a traffic stop.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2


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