Dorothy Bland Made Up Allegations that White Officers Stopped Her for Walking While Black-Disputed!
Summary of eRumor:
Dorothy Bland, the dean of journalism at the University of North Texas, fabricated allegations that white police officers stopped her for “walking her while black” in her own neighborhood.
It’s not clear whether Dorothy Bland was stopped for “walking while black” in her own neighborhood — or if Bland “fabricated” a rumor that she was.
We do know that Dorothy Bland, a black woman and the dean of journalism at the University of North Texas, was stopped by two white police officers while walking in her residential neighborhood in Corinth, Texas, in October 2015.
Corinth Police released dash camera video that shows a squad car following Dorothy Bland as she walked down a residential street flapping her arms. In the video, Bland eventually stops and two white police officers got out of the car and talk to her for about three minutes before she turns and leaves:
After the exchange, Dorothy Bland wrote that she had been stopped for “walking while black” in her own neighborhood in an op-ed piece published by the Dallas Morning News:
Knowing that the police officers are typically armed with guns and are a lot bigger than my 5 feet, 4 inches, I had no interest in my life’s story playing out like Trayvon Martin’s death. I stopped and asked the two officers if there was a problem; I don’t remember getting a decent answer before one of the officers asked me where I lived and for identification.
I remember saying something like, “Around the corner. This is my neighborhood, and I’m a taxpayer who pays a lot of taxes.” As for the I.D. question, how many Americans typically carry I.D. with them on their morning walk? Do you realize I bought the hoodie I was wearing after completing the Harvard University Institute for Management and Leadership in Education in 2014? Do you realize I have hosted gatherings for family, friends, faculty, staff and students in my home? Not once was a police officer called. To those officers, my education or property-owner status didn’t matter. One officer captured my address and date of birth.
I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood. I told the police I didn’t like to walk in the rain, and one of them told me, “My dog doesn’t like to walk in the rain.” Ouch!
I didn’t have my I.D., but I did have my iPhone, so I took a picture of the two police officers and the Texas license plate. One of the officers told me I should walk on the sidewalk or the other side of the street for safety’s sake.
In a written response, Corinth Police Chief Debra Walthall said that the encounter between Dorothy Bland and the two police officers was about resident’s safety, not race. Walthall said Bland was stopped for obstructing traffic, which is a misdemeanor offense:
The driver of the truck looked at the officers as they passed and held his hands in the air, which implied “aren’t you going to do something about this?” The officers turned around and drove behind Ms. Bland.
They activated their in-car video camera, which shows her again walking in the roadway impeding traffic. They activated their emergency lights — no siren was ever sounded — they exited their patrol vehicle and contacted Ms. Bland.
They immediately advised Ms. Bland about the pickup truck and the fact that it was safer for her to walk against traffic so she could see the cars and jump out of the way if necessary. The interaction between Ms. Bland and the officers was very cordial and brief.
Ms. Bland had been observed earlier by these same officers, but she was not in the street and impeding traffic, so she was not contacted.
Impeding traffic is a Class C misdemeanor, and it is our policy to ask for identification from people we encounter for this type violation. I am surprised by her comments as this was not a confrontational encounter but a display of professionalism and genuine concern for her safety.
After Corinth Police released the dash camera video of Dorothy Bland’s encounter with the police officers, reports began to swirl that Bland had “fabricated” that she was stopped for “walking while black.”
It’s impossible to tell from the dash camera video whether or not Dorothy Bland’s race played a role in her exchange with police — but she was walking in a lane of traffic and appeared to be unaware that a squad car was following her for a block or two.
James Ragland, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, wrote that the exchange between Dorothy Bland and the officers demonstrated “broken trust” after high-profile cases involving Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and others:
But here’s the rub: Dorothy Bland, like every other black American not living under a rock, is fully aware of each of those encounters, all of which ended tragically.
And that, unfortunately, is the shaky ground upon which this house of broken trust rests. That, plus the long history of police being perceived in poor black neighborhoods as instruments of white-power control and suppression.
Yes, black folks are on edge. Many are quick to question every single move an officer makes: Is it fair? Would he have treated me like that if I were white?
This is putting police in an untenable position. Legions of good cops repeatedly are paying for the sins or questionable behaviors of a few.
That dynamic must change.
Each of us bears the responsibility of making sure it does.
It comes with a price. It necessitates a different mindset, and a change of heart.
It will require us to at least give the men and women sworn to protect and serve the benefit of the doubt, especially in run-of-the-mill situations, which is what the Dorothy Bland drill looked like to me.
But this new contract also obligates us to hold accountable officers who violate the public’s trust, whether that involves excessive force or illegal stops and searches.
So, there’s no definitive proof of whether or not race played a role in Dorothy Bland’s exchange with police. There’s also no proof that Dorothy Bland intentionally fabricated her account of the exchange. That’s why we’ve classified this one as disputed.