Sandra Bland’s death has impacted the nation, and it’s raising questions. With the release of her booking documents, even more questions are raised: why are the documents full of contradictions? Many of these oddities are minor enough to be virtually unnoticed alone, but compiled, and in conjunction with Bland’s death, they paint a picture of, at best, inconsistent documentation efforts, and perhaps something more sinister.
The video of Sandra Bland’s arrest has gone viral — but CNN says that many viewers believe the dashcam video was edited, cutting key moments from Bland’s arrest.
Now, the L.A. Times procured a copy of Sandra Bland’s booking documents.
The fifteen-page document includes a suicide assessment, lists of Bland’s possessions, and medical assessments, among other things. Her name, of course, appears many times. Seven of these appear to be written by Bland (based on handwriting and instructions — certain pages are to be filled out by the inmate), with others by the processing officer. Of Sandra’s own writing, several are signatures, and others are simply a handwritten name. Oddly, she signs her name as “Sandra A. Bland” four times, writes it as “Sandra Bland” once, and as “Annette Bland” twice.
This isn’t sinister in itself. It looks like perhaps Bland typically signed her name as “Sandra A. Bland” but used ‘Annette’ regularly, perhaps in her professional life, and perhaps as she filled out the forms, she was in one case corrected and told to use her given first name, rather than the name she uses. Alone, this only suggests a not-too-consistent effort on the part of the officer to make sure that Bland’s documents were filled out in the legally accurate way. (There is also a line where it appears that the officer began to write her first name as “Annette,” then marked it out and wrote “Sandra.” Again, clerical error, but may say something about the level of attention being paid to the documentation.)
However, Sandra’s Bland’s name being inconsistently represented on the forms isn’t the most disconcerting piece of information. That comes on her suicide assessment.
It’s the second page of the documents at the link above, and it reflects Bland’s apparent responses to several questions, including whether she had considered suicide in the past year, whether she had ever attempted suicide, and, if so, when. According to the marks on the form, Bland had not considered suicide in the past year — but had attempted suicide in 2015. 2015 is quite demonstrably within the past year, being the current year.
This inconsistency could reflect a number of actualities: a confused and frightened Bland answering inconsistently in the wake of an unexpected arrest and an officer simply ticking off answers without scrutiny, an intake officer committing simple clerical error of clicking one wrong key, or an error in typing in the year. There are several possibilities other than the form being changed after Sandra Bland’s death — but the inconsistency is striking, in light of events.
This might be less striking if Sandra Bland’s suicide attempt wasn’t also central to another inconsistency in the forms. On page 14 of the documents is another suicide assessment form, filled out by an officer. On this one, Bland appears to have responded that she is very depressed right now now, and that she has indeed been suicidal in the past year. It also mentions the previous suicide attempt — but the date is written as 2014, then the 4 has been written over heavily to change it to a 5. In yet another page, Bland’s documents reflect that she has never attempted suicide.
Sandra Bland’s death is suspicious on several levels — why was there a trash bag in the cell that could be used in that manner? Why was there no surveillance or supervision? Was it really suicide?
There’s a tweet in Bland’s Twitter timeline that is particularly chilling, in light of her death.
— Sandra Bland (@a_sandybeach) April 8, 2015
If Sandra Bland’s death was truly suicide, her intake documents raise the most important question of all: if red flags for suicide risk showed in her records, why was she not placed on any sort of suicide watch or other protective custody? At minimum, it appears protective protocols were overlooked, and Sandra Bland lost her life.
[Photo via Twitter]