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November 14, 2017

An Examination of the Language Used in the Sandra Bland Traffic Stop

It started out as a normal traffic stop and days later ended with the suicide of Sandra Bland. St. Francis College Sociology & Criminal Justice Professor Belen Lowrey-Kinberg examined that traffic stop from a new perspective, looking at the words used by Bland and the arresting officer. She revealed what she learned in the talk, The Application of Forensic Linguistics to Policing: The Case of Sandra Bland, given on November 14, 2017, as part of the Fall 2017 Senior Citizen Lecture Series: Perspectives on American Politics & Policies.

(Learn about the language used in Sandra Bland's traffic stop)

During the talk, Professor Belen Lowrey-Kinberg gave an overview of forensic linguistics, examined the escalation of language in Sandra Bland's traffic stop, and discussed how theories from criminal justice and linguistics can help us understand police-citizen dynamics. Lowrey-Kinberg explored questions with implications for police-citizen interactions, such as:

  • How did a routine traffic stop become such a violent encounter? and
  • What interactional factors could explain such rapidly escalating tensions between an officer and a civilian?

belen lowrey-kinger

The lecture series was organized by St. Francis College Professors Emily Horowitz and Athena Devlin.