Maplewood Police and Fire Schools / Kids South Orange

Lawson-Muhammad Issues Apology, Commends Police Officer, Has Met With Chief Kroll

South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad released a full apology Thurday for her “irrational” behavior during a traffic stop on April 27. In the apology, Lawson-Muhammad also reported that she had met with South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll, who “sincerely accepted my apology and agrees that we will work together to help heal our community.”

She also commends the actions of South Orange Police Officer Shaun Horst who made the stop: “‘[T]o 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.”

Lawson-Muhammad has been criticized for her behavior in the video, in which she identifies herself to the police officer as a member of the Board of Education, mentions South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, and refers to the South Orange police chief as a “skinhead.” Walter Fields of the Black Parents Workshop has called for her resignation, as well as the resignation of Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker, saying Baker knew of the incident but did not share information with other Board members.

Baker also responded with a statement today, saying that since she “was made aware by the South Orange Village Administrator of the traffic stop incident involving my fellow Board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, I have acted in consultation with the School District’s counsel to ensure adherence to all legal and ethical obligations. I also encouraged Ms. Lawson-Muhammad to personally apologize to Chief Kroll and engage in a dialogue that would repair the harms that her statements caused.”

Lawson-Muhammad’s behavior captured in the video has caused major debate in the South Orange-Maplewood community. Residents have taken to social media to alternately castigate and defend Lawson-Muhammad — with a number of reactions somewhere in the middle.

For her own part, Lawson-Muhammad stated in her apology, “I allowed my emotions to overwhelm me that morning, and I fell short of the standards to which I hold myself.”

Read Lawson-Muhammad and Baker’s full statements below:

From Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad:

First and foremost, I want to sincerely apologize for my uncharacteristic behavior displayed in the police video on April 27th.  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.

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.

I have personally apologized to Chief Kyle Kroll who, like me, is passionate about our community. He is not the person I made him out to be. He sincerely accepted my apology and agrees that we will work together to help heal our community. We have begun plans to work with community stakeholders to build stronger bonds and greater trust for the entire community.

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad

South Orange, NJ

_____________________________________

Statement by South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker – May 17, 2018:

I understand that Ms. Lawson-Muhammad and Chief Kroll have met and that Ms. Lawson-Muhammad has both personally and publicly apologized to Chief Kroll.  I want to thank Chief Kroll for his willingness to meet with Ms. Lawson-Muhammad and accept her apology.  This meeting reflects the beginning of a difficult, restorative dialogue.  Such a dialogue takes personal courage and a shared commitment to our community.

Since I was made aware by the South Orange Village Administrator of the traffic stop incident involving my fellow Board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, I have acted in consultation with the School District’s counsel to ensure adherence to all legal and ethical obligations. I also encouraged Ms. Lawson-Muhammad to personally apologize to Chief Kroll and engage in a dialogue that would repair the harms that her statements caused.  

I ask the members of our towns to support Chief Kroll and Ms. Lawson-Muhammad in this process.      

Elizabeth Baker

Member of the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education and Board President

This statement is made as an individual and not on behalf of the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education

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