An uphill battle

The Texas county where Sandra Bland died could elect its first black sheriff. Here’s why that matters.

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The small Texas county where Sandra Bland died could soon elect its first black sheriff: 53-year-old Cedric Watson, who works as a reserve lieutenant for the county constable’s office

Watson told the Texas Tribune he plans to run the jail where Sandra Bland died differently.

Watson said his main focus will be to improve training among jail staff and said that he would personally check on inmates in the jail.

“I find it hard to believe the sheriff himself can employ a committee to go through the jail after the Sandra Bland death and they come out and say that everything is satisfactory,” he said.

Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell last year after being pulled over for “an improper lane change.Her death was ruled a suicide, but the circumstances around it raised concerns about police misconduct, and Waller County and the Texas Department of Public Safety settled a wrongful death lawsuit with her family for $1.9 million earlier this year.

Current Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith was apparently fired from his last job as a police chief in one of the county’s towns after several accusations of police misconduct, which included allegations racism and police brutality.

As the Tribune reports though, even with that clear indication Smith may not be fit for the job, unseating him is an uphill battle.

It won’t be easy. Waller County, a mostly rural county just west of Houston that is about 42 percent white and 26 percent black, has long been led by Republicans. But supporters of Democratic sheriff candidate Cedric Watson say a historically black college tucked in the county’s northwest corner could make the difference. About 1 of every 7 residents in Waller County is a student at Prairie View A&M University.

The New York Times reported yesterday on a similar, but wide-spread effort to get more black prosecutors into office in the wake of so many high-profile shootings. Black candidates for top prosecutor jobs are expected to win on Tuesday in Chicago, St. Louis, Orlando, Florida, and suburban Henry County, Georgia.

Benjamin L. Crump represented Trayvon Martin and is also involved in the effort. He explained to the Times why it’s so important to elect black leaders to these offices.

“It may have a more profound effect on your life than any national office will have, because this is going to determine whether your children get trumped-up charges and have the words ‘felony conviction’ on their backs for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Crump said, “or, even worse, if they are going to be killed in cold blood and broad daylight, and no one will be held accountable for it.”