Tuscaloosa woman questions her arrest in front of home
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Aajene Robinson
A Tuscaloosa woman says Tuscaloosa Police abused their power when they arrested her in front of her children earlier this week, and she’s got video proof.
The video, spread widely around social media, shows the interaction between 28-year-old Courtney Stephens and several Tuscaloosa Police Officers.
The incident happened Sept. 13, and Stephens was detained at her home and arrested in front of her 1-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.
Stephens said she was returning home with her children when her son unbuckled his seat belt and told her that his sister had an accident in her car seat.
She passed an unmarked police vehicle during the conversation with her children. The officers made a U-turn and turned on their lights, but Stephens said by the time she noticed them she was getting her children out of her vehicle at her home.
The officers approached her and asked her to get back in the car because they were making a traffic stop. Stephens said she refused, and that’s when the situation escalated.
She asked the officer why they were putting their hands on her how they were attempting a traffic stop because she was at home.
“The other officer walked up and said ‘OK, we are just going to arrest you,’ and I was like ‘what am I being arrested for?” she said. “He said ‘because you are not being cooperative, you’re not getting back in the car.’ ”
Stephens said she was confused about the command because she lived at the home where she’d parked. She said she tried calling her mother so she could pick up her children, but the officers confiscated her phone and keys. Instead, she gave her mother’s number to a bystander.
As police made Stephens get on the ground she said she could hear her children crying.
“I was not turning over because I wanted to make sure my kids are OK,” she said. “He pulled his Taser out and said ‘if you don’t turn over I’m going to tase you.’ ”
You can a bystander begging police not to tase her in front of her children.
“At that time my daughter was throwing up, my son was still crying and scared,” Stephens said.
NAACP Tuscaloosa Branch President Lisa Young and Stephens’ mother Latasha Bolden spoke to the Tuscaloosa City Council Sept. 14, asking the city to look into the incident.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley and District 1 Tuscaloosa City Council Member Matthew Wilson addressed the situation at the council meeting.
Blankley said she was arrested because she refused an officer’s order to get back in the vehicle.
“In this situation, the officers tried to give her a ticket she refused to cooperate,” Blankley said. “Nobody wants to see anybody arrested in front of their children. But the fact of the matter is she made those kids see that situation. It’s a hard truth, but it’s the truth.”
Wilson said he is not for anyone doing another person wrong, but respect goes both ways when it comes to interacting with police officers.
“If the police stop you and they ask you to do something, I want people to do what they are asked to do,” Wilson said. “I think that’s what is going to help our community become a safer community and a community where people are not afraid and I think the respect is going to have to go twofold.”
Maddox said the city will investigate the matter.
“What if the officer who saw the child moving around the back seat didn’t stop the vehicle and something would have happened to that child?” Maddox said. “What if that child had been kidnapped? What if that child was trying to break free? What if there was something wrong with that child?”
The police did their due diligence, Maddox said, but Blankley will ensure they acted in accordance with the policies and procedures of the department.
Bolden said she’s not happy with the way Maddox addressed the situation.
“That’s very upsetting to hear,” she said. “The mayor of Tuscaloosa said that about someone who has just been traumatized by an officer who’s supposed to protect and serve us.”
Stephens filed a citizen’s complaint with Young against TPD over the incident.