Justice

Miss Black Texas Claims Being Illegally Arrested, Called Racist Slurs by Police Chief

May 26th 2017

By:
Ethan Simon

On May 20, Carmen Ponder was arrested in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Commerce, Texas, after she claimed the city's police chief harassed and called her a "black bitch."

Most of the details on the incident are currently being disputed — with differing accounts offered by the Commerce Police Department and Ponder.

According to Ponder, the incident started when she pulled around a black truck that was driving erratically.

After passing the truck, she pulled into the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, her original destination. When she parked, the black car drove up to her, and a man in the passenger seat, Kerry Crews, began yelling at her. Crews, who didn't announce himself as a police officer, began to tell Ponder that he was trying to teach his 14-year-old daughter to drive, and she shouldn't have passed a novice driver. When Ponder pointed out that having a 14 year old behind the wheel is illegal, she claimed the driver responded angrily, screaming "oh, whatever, you black bitch."

Ponder shrugged it off and went into the store. But when she came out, at least one other man in addition to Crews approached her. One showed her a police badge — a plainclothes officer — and told her that the man she'd passed was "his chief," and she'd "better apologize to him now."

When Ponder refused, she claimed she was grabbed violently and detained — waiting for uniformed cops to arrive. When she tried to approach the uniformed police, she was accused of resisting arrest, and was held overnight in Hunt County Jail.

The Miss Black Texas 2016 recounted the entire incident in a tweet she posted on May 22.

Her post elicited strong reactions on Twitter, with many outraged by her story.

But the city's account differs quite a bit.

According to the City of Commerce, Crews only became involved in the incident because he was approached by one of the parties. They claim he wasn't the man who called Ponder a "black bitch," nor was he the man driving the other car. In a statement released Thursday, the city alleged that Crews was "not on duty and only present as a customer."

It also stated that they'd be engaging an outside entity to conduct an independent investigation, and that Crews would be placed on administrative leave during the investigation. They were sure to note that this measure was "in no way an admission of any wrongdoing and should not be perceived as a disciplinary action."

Ponder's lawyer says it doesn't matter whether Crews was the one who used a slur.

In a statement sent to ATTN:, Ponder's lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, acknowledged Ponder's fallibility in terms of identifying the original assailant, but stressed that whether Crews was the one who called Ponder a "black bitch" or not, her civil rights were violated.

The statement reads, in part:

"Commerce PD officers immediately sided with the white motorist that referred to Ms. Ponder as a 'black bitch' and used the authority entrusted to their office to further the intimidation and harassment begun by the errant motorist. When Ms. Ponder declined to submit to the demeaning command that she apologize to her assailant, Ms. Ponder was brutalized and arrested by members of the Commerce Police Department and assigned a fraudulent criminal charge. The City has acknowledged that this took place in the presence and under the supervision of Police Chief Kerry Crews."

Ponder is still upset by the racial nature of her arrest, and it's warranted considering the racial disparities in policing and the U.S. justice system.

"African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites," according to the NAACP. An investigation into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, by the U.S. Department of Justice found that when engaging with black residents, "Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority. They are inclined to interpret the exercise of free-speech rights as unlawful disobedience, innocent movements as physical threats, indications of mental or physical illness as belligerence."

A 2016 study also found that police are more likely to use force with blacks than with "whites in similar situations."

Ponder explained to HuffPost: “It’s just a reminder that our skin color, speaking specifically about the African-American community, is seen as something hostile, dangerous and illegal."