Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw acknowledged on Tuesday that officers are responsible for escalations that may occur during a stop or arrest, the Texas Tribune reports.
According to the report, when asked if Sandra Bland was in any way to blame for the heated exchange that was caught on a dashboard camera, McCraw brushed it aside, saying, “It’s always on the trooper.”
“We’re accountable for every stop. And the citizen has a right to be objectionable—they can be rude. They can do a lot of things. They can say things, they can do things, and at the end of the day, we have an obligation not to react and be pulled into that. We’ve got to be professional, above that,” he said.
Bland’s case drew public outrage after she died in a Waller County, Texas, jail three days after she was stopped by state Trooper Brian Encinia in early July for failing to signal a lane change.
In dash-cam footage of her stop, Bland can be seen refusing to put out her cigarette. When Encinia orders her out of her vehicle, which Bland also refuses to do, Encinia then threatens to “yank” her out of the car and ultimately threatens to “light [her] up,” while pointing his Taser at her, until Bland exits the vehicle.
In the end, Bland was arrested for allegedly assaulting a public servant. Three days later, she was found hanged in her jail cell and her death was ruled a suicide.
McCraw, however, told the Tribune that Encinia violated protocol and acted unprofessionally.
“We require professional courtesy and display at all times, and clearly he did not do it in that situation,” McCraw said, pointing out that troopers had more than 2 million interactions in 2015, and other troopers “don’t get pulled into” encounters like Encinia.
As the Tribune notes, Encinia was put on desk duty after the incident, and McCraw has begun the process of terminating him.
Encinia was indicted on a perjury charge earlier this month and could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted.