What to Know
A New Jersey education panel has recommended a six-month suspension for a school board member whose traffic stop last year went viral
Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad was caught on a dash cam cursing at a cop and calling the police chief "a skinhead;" she later apologized
The board said she leveraged her position and tried to use her relationship with another top official to get out of a traffic ticket
A New Jersey education panel has recommended a six-month suspension for a school board member caught on camera cursing at a police officer and calling the chief a "skinhead cop" after she got pulled over last year.
The School Ethics Commission announced its decision Tuesday. It found South Orange-Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad leveraged her position and tried to use her relationship with another top official to get out of a traffic ticket in April.
In a statement weeks later, Lawson-Muhammad said she wanted to “sincerely apologize” for what she describes as “uncharacteristic behavior” and “allowed my emotions to overwhelm me that morning.”
She said she grew frustrated and “out of sorts” when the officer stopped her.
“To my benefit, the officer did not react to my behavior. The officer kept an even tone in our interaction and performed his job well under the circumstances. I thank him for his patience,” the statement read, adding that she personally apologized to Chief Kyle Kroll who in the video she refers to “a skinhead cop.”
In the April 27 morning dash cam video, Lawson-Muhammad is heard telling police, “My name is Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, I’m on the school board. I’m a community member of this town and I am sorry if I was speeding,” adding she didn’t know she was speeding.
In no time during the dash cam video, can one see the driver's face.
The police officer can be heard telling the driver she was stopped for going 37 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.
“I’m scared of cops, because you might hurt black people,” Lawson-Muhammad says in the video. Lawson-Muhammad is African-American. The officer who stopped her was Caucasian.
The cop later asks the driver if she would like him to call her an ambulance when she starts to cry and he says it looks like she might be having a panic attack, to which she responds no and that she found the question insulting.
“That was a f---ing insult,” you can hear her say on the dash cam video.
The driver also seemed to suggest that she would contact South Orange Village President Sheena Collum in response to the traffic stop.
When the police officer asks for her driver’s license and insurance card, she cannot find the license and hands over an expired insurance card.
He tells her that she is getting a summons for speeding and another for not having a valid insurance card, which will require her to go to court to prove she had insurance on the date and time she was stopped.
“Now you want me to go to court? I don’t want to go to court. I have insurance,” the driver says, adding that her husband, who she is talking to on her cell phone, can text the officer a picture of her insurance card.
When the officer says he cannot void a summons once it is written she says, “I’ll call Sheena, and your skinhead cop chief, too."