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Update: Lawmakers Met In Austin For Hearing On Sandra Bland's Arrest, Death

Sandra Bland died in police custody July 13. Her death was ruled a suicide.

Texas and America are wrestling with the relationship between African Americans and police.

In Austin Thursday, legislators gathered for a hearing focused on Sandra Bland’s death, which has become a national flash point in the discussion about race. 

The hearing is the first time lawmakers have met to discuss the circumstances surrounding the death the 28-year-old black woman from suburban Chicago. Authorities say Bland on July 13 hanged herself in jail, a finding that her family has questioned.

Bland was in custody for allegedly assaulting a white Texas trooper who on July 10 pulled her over in Waller County for an improper lane change.

The Texas House Committee on County Affairs is now taking a new look at jail procedures and interactions with the police and the general public.

Representative Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from Bedford, expressed frustration that the deputy who arrested Bland is on administrative leave and still collecting a salary.

“I understand there’s an investigation, but for a lot of people it’s pretty cut and dry what happened. And that’s that someone’s liberties were stomped upon," he says.

Bland spent three nights in jail while family members worked to get bail money together.

Representative Gene Wu from Houston said it’s “abhorrent” that jail is the only option for people who can’t afford to pay a fine.

“Our jails have sort of become the modern debtor’s prisons," says Wu. "I’ve known people who were on probation they’ve done everything that was on their probation list but they couldn’t pay their fines, because either they could feed their family, keep a roof over their head, or pay their fines.”

Thursday on ThinkUNT assistant journalism professor Meredith Clark, Lancaster Chief of Police Cheryl Wilson and Fort Worth artist Christopher Blay discussed the relationship between African Americans and law enforcement. Listen to the podcast here.

This report was provided by KERA news and the Associated Press. 

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.