What to Know
A South Orange-Maplewood School Board member allegedly got into a verbal altercation with a police officer who stopped her for speeding
In a dash cam video, the alleged board member cursed, complained when she received a summons and called South Orange PD chief “a skinhead"
The incident reminiscent of the traffic stop video that showed a former Port Authority official cursing at Tenafly police officers in NJ
In an incident reminiscent of the traffic stop video that showed a former Port Authority official cursing at Tenafly police officers in New Jersey, an alleged South Orange-Maplewood School Board member got into a verbal altercation in which she cursed, complained when she received a summons and called the South Orange police chief “a skinhead cop” after a South Orange police officer stopped her for speeding last month.
In the dash cam video of the April 27, someone identifying themselves as board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad was pulled over just before 8 a.m. on Walton Avenue near the border of South Orange and Maplewood, according to a published report.
The driver of the vehicle 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,” the person who initially identified themselves as Lawson-Muhammad says in the video. Lawson-Muhammad is African-American. The officer who stopped her was Caucasian.
The driver also asks if her child can walk to school. He says they can and a child is seen exiting the car with a bookbag.
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 she asks the officer if he is from Maplewood or South Orange and he mentions the latter, she says she’ll call Collum “right now.”
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. The officer can be seen heading toward his vehicle to issue her a summons.
Later, when the officer returns from his vehicle, the driver who initially identified themselves as Lawson-Muhammad appears to be crying, according to the video, and the officer asks her once more if she was okay to drive.
He tells her that she is getting a summons for speeding and another for not having a valid insurance card. He says the latter 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."
After the officer explains to her court date procedures, he is seen on video telling the driver of the car to "drive safe" and walks to his vehicle.
On Wednesday, the SOMA Black Parents Workshop, a group of community parents and residents who have a pending lawsuit against the South Orange-Maplewood School District alleging federal and state violations based on a pattern of policies and practices they say discriminated against African-American students, shared a letter on social media regarding the incident.
The letter, which was addressed to the president of the Board of Education, is in support of the officer and condemns Lawson-Muhammad’s alleged actions.
The letter says it was clear that Lawson-Muhammad “attempted to exercise her civic privilege,” while the officer “remains calms and proceeds to act in accordance to his duties.”
The letter, signed by SOMA Black Parents Workshop Chairman Walter Fields, says that “under no circumstances is this behavior, from a public servant no less, is acceptable. Ms. Lawson-Muhammad must resign her position” and that she must issue a public apology to the officer.
“There are real incidents of police misconduct. This was not one of them,” Fields says in his letter.
South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll declined to comment on the incident.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District informed NBC New York they will have a comment later this afternoon. They have yet to respond.
NBC New York reached out to Lawson-Muhammad and South Orange Village president for comment, but they did not respond.
In addition, NBC New York filed an Open Public Records Act request with South Orange Wednesday to obtain a copy of the dash cam video.