The New Jersey school board member who is facing pressure to resign after being accused of trying to “manipulate” a cop during a traffic stop said she has personally apologized to the police chief that she was caught on video calling a “skinhead.”
Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, a South Orange and Maplewood Board of Education member, appeared to be remaining in her post Thursday as she broke her silence following the April 27 incident.
“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,” Lawson-Muhammad said in a statement obtained by Fox News.
The board member, who was pulled over in South Orange for speeding, had said that she was “scared of cops because you guys hurt black people” and called the town’s police chief, Kyle Kroll, a “skinhead”, according to footage from the dash-cam of Officer Shaun Horst that emerged this week.
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“I have personally apologized to Chief Kyle Kroll who, like me, is passionate about our community,” Lawson-Muhammad said. “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.”
Lawson-Muhammad added that "like many parents, I was trying to get my children to their schools on time" when she was pulled over.
The board’s president, Elizabeth Baker, said in a separate statement Thursday that she wanted “to thank Chief Kroll for his willingness to meet with Ms. Lawson-Muhammad and accept her apology” and that “this meeting reflects the beginning of a difficult, restorative dialogue.”
Baker also said she encouraged Lawson-Muhammad to apologize to Kroll.
Lawson-Muhammad’s behavior was blasted in a letter sent to the school board Wednesday by the SOMA Black Parents Workshop, an advocacy group that called for her resignation.
“Under no circumstances is this behavior, from a public servant no less, acceptable,” said its chairman, Walter Fields. “Ms. Lawson-Muhammad must resign her position.
“When viewing the video, it is clear that Board Member Lawson-Muhammad attempted to exercise her civic privilege during a routine traffic stop,” the letter continued. “Board Member Lawson-Muhammad also infers that she is afraid of police, a reference that I believe attempts to manipulate the officer given the tensions between the African-American community and law enforcement.”
CBS 2 reported that most residents it interviewed in the town described her statements as appalling.
“I don’t think anybody should call anybody any kind of name,” South Orange resident Christine Rivera told the station. “Basically, it’s racist.”
Lawson-Muhammad on Thursday also joined a chorus of praise for the officer in the video, who displayed a cool and calm demeanor throughout the incident.
“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,” she said. “I thank him for his patience.”