Dorothy Bland never expected to be stopped by a pair of police officers during her morning workout, but that’s exactly what happened last weekend. While she was strolling through her neighborhood, Bland (no relation to Sandra Bland), claims she was stopped for “walking while Black.”
“Flashing lights and sirens from a police vehicle interrupted a routine Saturday morning walk in my golf-course community in Corinth,” Bland writes in an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News. “I often walk about 3 miles near daybreak as part of my daily exercise. However, on Oct. 24, I delayed my walk until late morning as I waited for the rain to stop. I was dressed in a gray hooded “Boston” sweatshirt, black leggings, white socks, plus black-and-white Nike running shoes. Like most African-Americans, I am familiar with the phrase “driving while black,” but was I really being stopped for walking on the street in my own neighborhood?”
Bland’s encounter was caught on the officers’ dashboard cam and published by the Dallas Morning News. It shows the officers following the Dean of the University of North Texas’ journalism school in their car for several seconds before exiting the vehicle and stopping to talk to her.
During the incident, one of the officers tells Bland to walk on the other side of the street so she can see oncoming traffic, while his partner looks on. The whole thing seems relatively benign until the officer asks to see Bland’s ID, which she doesn’t have, so he can “put it with the call.”
In her op-ed, Bland questions the officer’s intentions.
“How many Americans typically carry I.D. with them on their morning walk?” she wonders. “I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood.”
Though she only shares a surname with Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who ended up dead in a jail cell following a routine traffic stop, the university dean says she thought about her, and others, who’ve died while in police custody.
“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.”
Bland says she refuses “to let this incident ruin my life,” but Corinth Police Chief Debra Walthall said her officers did nothing wrong.
“The citizens of Corinth as a whole are a highly educated population, and it is disappointing that one of our residents would attempt to make this a racial issue when clearly it is not,” Walthall also wrote in the Dallas Morning News. “I am surprised by her comments as this was not a confrontational encounter but a display of professionalism and genuine concern for her safety.”