An elected school board official became combative, berating a police officer during a routine traffic stop and threatening to call the police chief as she launched allegations of racism. Thankfully, the encounter was caught on video and the school board member was quickly made to regret it.
Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, an elected member of a New Jersey school board, called a police chief a “skinhead” and said she was “scared of cops” during a traffic stop. It all started when she was driving her daughter to school one morning and Officer Shaun Horst pulled her over.
“My name is Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, I’m on the school board. I’m a community member of this town. I’m sorry if I was speeding,” she immediately told the officer. When the patrolman informed her she was indeed speeding and asked to see her license and registration, she became panicked while asking if her daughter can get out and walk to school.
“Yeah, that’s fine. Ma’am,” Officer Horst replied to the question, giving permission for Lawson-Muhammad’s daughter to walk to school. “I’ll try and get you out of here as quickly as I can,” he added. That’s when the African-American school board official lost all control. “I’m scared of cops because you guys hurt black people!” exclaimed Lawson-Muhammad, who was growing more and more agitated.
In response, the officer politely asked Lawson-Muhammad if she wanted him to call her an ambulance, but she only grew irate at the suggestion. “No! I don’t want you to call me an ambulance. That’s an insult,” she retorted before the officer responds that she looks like she might be having a panic attack or some anxiety. “That was a f*****g insult!” she fired back with the officer calmly replying, “Okay.”
According to Yahoo News, “The officer can be seen in the video asking Lawson-Muhammad for her insurance card, which was expired. Additionally, the officer can be heard informing Lawson-Muhammad she has a court summons for speeding and failing to have a valid insurance card in the past.” When the officer tells her that he can’t void the summons since it’s already been written, she blows her cool.
“For me to have to go to court, for me to have to go to court, now you want me to go to court? Then I’ll call Sheena, and your skinhead cop chief, too!” Lawson-Muhammad declared. She then reiterated that she was going to “call Sheena,” the president of the South Orange Village, and again refused to ever go to court before the officer tells her to drive safely as the two part ways.
Several African-American members of the South Orange Township community labeled the woman’s actions “racist,” Patch reported. “If the situation was reversed, and an officer behaved in this manner toward an African-American civilian we would have taken the officer and the department to task,” said Walter Fields, president of SOMA Black Parents Workshop.
Lawson-Muhammad tried to apologize. “I had an irrational response to being stopped for a traffic violation. I allowed my emotions to overwhelm me that morning, and I fell short of the standards to which I hold myself,” her statement said. “Like many parents, I was trying to get my children to their schools on time. When the police officer stopped me, I was upset, frustrated, and uncharacteristically out of sorts. And 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 apology was too little too late as the community remained outraged over Lawson-Muhammad’s treatment of the police officer, and there were many calls for her resignation. “Residents are calling on Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad to step down from her position on the South Orange and Maplewood Board of Education after she appeared to demand special treatment from a police officer,” WRKO said in a Facebook post.
Although she didn’t immediately step down, the community didn’t have to wait long to see her removed from her position. In the next election following the controversial traffic stop, Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad was voted off the school board. While most people have heard of “white privilege,” Lawson-Muhammad was accused of using her “civic privilege” to manipulate the police officer to try to avoid a ticket. Thankfully, she was made to regret it and serves as an example of what not to do during an encounter with law enforcement.