A former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga faculty member and alumna says she was pulled over by six campus police on Wednesday, creating an "alarming encounter" and pushback from neighbors.
Carmen Carson, a Black woman and CEO of local nonprofit Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center, says she was stopped on her way from work on Wednesday evening after she was followed by half a dozen UTC officers for allegedly running a stop sign.
In a public Facebook post, which has more than 1,500 shares in less than a day, Carson described the incident.
"I notice two UTC police pulling out of my husband's office parking lot (he works at the State Building on campus) and normally I feel safe with campus police around, but this time, I get that feeling in my gut," wrote Carson.
Carson worked at UTC from 2009 to 2014 in administration roles, and is the wife of Upward Bound Academic Coordinator Antione Carson.
"I know that I am driving our little white VW bug. I know that I look like the everyday Black person. I know that no one is technically on campus right now because of the pandemic. I see them pull behind me."
According to her post, Carson drove a few blocks and stopped at the intersection of 8th Street and Douglas Avenue, where she noted another officer perform a U-turn in the intersection.
Just doors down from her home, Carson wrote, she was stopped by six officers, at which point she called a nearby neighbor, an attorney and friend, who watched the exchange from his window while she kept him and her out-of-town husband on speaker phone.
Then, she says, an officer approached her window and accused her of running the stop sign.
"They send the Black police to my passenger window (I'm sure that was intentional). I lean over and roll it down. He says, 'Do you have your license and registration?' I tell him it is in my bag in the trunk. (He looks puzzled)," she wrote.
"Then he tells me that 'I'm pulling you over because you ran through the stop on 8th and Douglas,'" a claim which she denied. "He insists on lying and creating a narrative that I ran through the stop sign. (Mind you, that would be impossible due to the fact that his colleague was making a U-turn at that intersection in the middle of the road). He then says he will be back."
As she waited, neighbors came out and began questioning the police on their response, her post said.
"By this time, my other neighbors — who are also action-taking allies — step outside of their condos and begin confronting the police about why there are six police officers surrounding me with three SUVs all with their lights on," she wrote. "[A neighbor on the phone] keeps assuring me everything is OK and that he is watching. I feel comfort, fear, rage, pain, exhausted and hurt all in the same moment."
According to her post, the Black officer then returned to her vehicle, told her they would let her go and explained that the police are bearing down to prepare for students returning to campus. He then apologized, according to Carson.
"UM — who apologize for pulling over someone who actually broke the law? NO ONE," Carson wrote. "Why would you apologize? Oh, because you realized that I'm not just a random person you were trying to profile on campus. OK."
On Thursday, UTC said the campus is investigating the incident and would consider disciplinary action.
"The university is aware of concerns that have been raised about a traffic stop by the UTC campus police last evening which involved a member of the university community. We take such concerns extremely seriously, especially during this period of heightened sensitivity to race relations and the actions of police agencies across the country," Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Brown wrote.
"A thorough review of this incident is being conducted, including a review of dashboard cameras from police vehicles involved in the stop. If a conclusion is reached that misconduct occurred, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. We want our public to understand that we will be transparent in our conclusions when the review process is completed."
A spokesman for the university said officials would not be answering further questions.
The event comes during weeks of unrest across the country and world, including Chattanooga, in response to several recent fatal incidents of police brutality, and just one day after video was released showing Hamilton County deputies accosting, restraining and beating an unarmed Black man after stopping him for walking on the wrong side of the road.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.