A Texas journalism professor who said she was racially profiled is having her claims challenged by a recently released police video.
Dorothy Bland, a dean of the journalism school at the University of North Texas, claimed she was out for an early morning walk in her neighborhood last month when she was stopped by two Corinth police officers. Bland accused the officers of stopping her for “walking while black.” She detailed her encounter in a guest column in The Dallas Morning News.
“I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood,” Bland wrote. “Although I am not related to Sandra Bland, I thought about her, Freddie Gray and the dozens of others who have died while in police custody. For safety’s sake, I posted the photo of the officers on Facebook, and within hours, more than 100 Facebook friends spread the news from New York to California.”
However dash cam video released by the police disputes her account. The video shows the officers driving up behind Bland and observing she was walking on the wrong side of the road. She was also oblivious to traffic, since she was wearing earbuds. The officers later approached Bland, with their hands on their guns, and requested identification.
Corinth Police Chief Debra Walthall accused Bland of trying to make the incident about race.
“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,” Walthall wrote in a Dallas Morning News column. “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.”
Walthall also said Bland should have addressed her concerns to the police department, instead of going public. Bland has been attacked by several right-wing news sites who have called for her to be fired. She was also criticized in several letters to The Dallas Morning News. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk said Bland’s charges diminish real cases of racial profiling.
“As a person of color, this upsets me,” he said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “Particularly against what happened in South Carolina. Particularly as this country is wrestling with very real concerns regarding the police treatment of African-American youth. She took advantage of a very innocent and thoughtful police response — walk on the right side of the street — she’s just looking for her Skip Gates moment.”
The Dorothy Bland case could have gone a lot worse than it did. It’s not surprising that a Black person would feel threatened by being stopped by two officers with their hands on their guns, considering recent cases of police shootings. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and Bland was able to walk away unscathed.