Police & Fire

Video Shows School Board Member In Altercation With Police at Traffic Stop in South Orange

South Orange Traffic Stop on April 27 Credits: TAPinto SOMA
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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad got into an altercation with a South Orange police officer who stopped her for speeding last month, in which she used profanity, complained when she was issued a ticket and called South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll “a skinhead cop.”

Lawson-Muhammad also appeared to suggest that she would contact South Orange Village President Sheena Collum in response to the traffic stop, according to police dashcam video of the incident obtained by TAPinto. 

According to the video of the April 27 incident, Lawson-Muhammad was pulled over just before 8 a.m. on Walton Avenue, near the border of South Orange and Maplewood.

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She is heard arguing with police and stating “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, I didn’t realize I was speeding.”

The police officer said she was stopped for going 37 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone, to which Lawson-Muhammad replied, "I'm very sorry."

She then asks if her child can be let out of the car to walk to school, and the officer agrees and the child is seen exiting the car and walking on the sidewalk away from the vehicle.

She is later heard saying, “and I’m scared of cops, because you might hurt black people," according to the dashcam video.

When she asks if the officer is from Maplewood or South Orange and he replies South Orange, she says, “great, I’ll call Sheena right now,” likely referring to South Orange Village President Sheena Collum.

When the police officer asks for her driver’s license and insurance card, she cannot find the license initially and only an expired insurance card, according to the dashcam video.

Later, when the officer returns from his vehicle, he tells her that she is getting a summons for speeding and another for not having a valid insurance card. He says the latter charge will require her to go to court to prove she was insured at the time of the stop. 

Lawson-Muhammad then begins to argue, saying, “for me to have to go to court, for me to have to go to court, now you want me to go to court? I don’t want to go to court, I have insurance.”

When the officer says he cannot void a ticket once it is written she says, “I’ll call Sheena, and your skinhead cop chief, too."

Moments later the officer says "drive safe" to which Lawson-Muhammad replies "you too," and drives away. The dashcam video ends, with the time showing that it is about 8:09 a.m.

TAPinto/SOMA reached out to Lawson-Muhammad via email and phone for comment, but she did not respond. School Board President Elizabeth Baker also could not be reached for comment.

Contacted Tuesday, South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll declined to comment.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article was published at  9 a.m. and updated at 10 a.m. on Wednesday to clarify the comment from Lawson-Muhammad about the "skinhead cop" was directed towards Police Chief Kyle Kroll, and not the officer with whom she was speaking.

Update: Statements from Lawson-Muhammad, Baker, and Collum were released on Thursday, May 17.

Coverage at the links below:

Lawson-Muhammad Apologizes For 'Irrational Response' To Police Altercation; School Board President Supports Her

South Orange Village President Issues Statement About Traffic Stop of School Board Member

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