Sandra Bland arrest video appears to have been edited [Updated: dashcams!]


Last night, the Texas Board of Public Safety released what it claimed was the complete dashcam video of the arrest of Sandra Bland. However, the video is full of peculiar repeating sections, breaks and other apparent continuity problems.

Time compiled a selection of the most obvious cuts, which it describes as edits—a characterization disputed by the Board, which blamed unspecified "technical issues" which had "affected" the "upload."

In the video, which is more than 52 minutes long, there are several spots in which cars and people disappear and reappear. When it released the video, the Public Safety Department did not mention any editing. The audio ends more than a minute before the video images do.

One of the more conspicuous anomalies comes 25 minutes and five seconds into the video, when a man walks from a truck off screen and then reappears suddenly at the spot where he began walking. The image flutters for a moment before resuming.

There are no breaks in the audio during this time. People are heard talking through the video gaps.

In another spot at 32 minutes and 37 seconds, a white car appears on the right side of the screen and then disappears. A moment later, what appears to be the same car comes back into the frame and turns left. During this time, Encinia is talking about what occurred during the arrest. There are no breaks in his speech.

sandra bland
Bland was pulled over on a pretext of failing to signal, subjected to an angry tirade after failing to respect the officer's authority to his satisfaction, then dragged to the cells, where she died three days later under circumstances now being investigated as a murder.

UPDATE: reader Mike Johnson writes in to say that the glitches and loops seen in the visual part of the video can be explained as standard characteristics of dash-mounted cameras, which record sequences of short, overlapping files.

the video oddities aren't a sign the video was edited. If anything, they're actually a sign that the video wasn't edited. Many dashcams show those kinds of loops in the raw footage; it's a feature, not a bug. They have redundant, overlapping frames between the end of one video file and the beginning of the next by design. It's a guarantee that no frames were dropped, no data lost, as the camera closed one file and started writing to another.

I have a G1W dashcam; there's always a slight loop between the video files when you stitch them back together for playback. It's more subtle than the one in the raw dashcam footage from Texas, but it's unmistakeable. Here's an example from my own dashcam. The loop happens at 3:00, because my camera records in three minute segments.

The raw Sandra Bland footage has those same redundant loops. It's not that a car disappears at 32 minutes; it's that the video has essentially backed up a second, and so the white car that supposedly disappeared has to re-enter the frame. Which it does.

What's ironic and disappointing is, the Texas Department of Public Safety has, in response to the claims it had been edited, pulled the raw footage from YouTube, and replaced it with a clearly edited version. Now it's much more difficult to determine the integrity of the data. What's more, any mirror of the original raw footage can't be guaranteed that it hasn't been edited by somebody trying to make the Texas police look bad.

I can't explain how they recorded the audio, or processed it or posted it. My guess is, it was recorded on a different device and added to the video before uploading it to YouTube. That would explain why the audio ended before the video, as the video was lengthened by each stitch and they fell out of sync.

The Texas Department of Public Safety did the right thing in releasing the raw footage. It doesn't explain how Sandra Bland died, but it certainly shows a constant escalation of tensions as the arresting officer goaded Sandra Bland and lost control of a routine, non-threatening traffic stop. If Sandra Bland wasn't murdered, she was bullied into suicide.