Tuscaloosa, Alabama NAACP Demands Transparency, Justice for Woman Who Was Arrested in Front of Her Kids
The Tuscaloosa County Branch of the NAACP announced earlier this month that it is currently working with the woman who was forcibly detained by Tuscaloosa Police officers in front of her children to advocate for more transparency regarding the incident.
Courtney Stephens, the subject whose name was previously withheld due to The Tuscaloosa Thread's anonymity policy, was pulled over on Sept.13 after officers noticed her two children, ages 2 and 4, were standing in the front passenger's seat without a seatbelt on.
Officers allegedly asked to speak with Stephens multiple times, but she refused. At that point, officers attempted to put her in handcuffs as she continued to resist.
In a video posted online, Stephens can be seen calling for someone to watch her children, while they cry nearby.
Stephens was charged with resisting arrest and multiple child seatbelt violations. She has also filed a citizen's complaint against the Tuscaloosa Police Department, with the help of the Tuscaloosa NAACP.
Tasha Bolden, Stephens' mother, said she spent Tuesday morning in the hospital with serious bruising.
"She called me and said, 'Mom they pulled the hair off my head, they slammed me on the ground,'" Bolden said, addressing the Tuscaloosa City Council on Sept. 14. "Why did it take two of y'all to hold her down in front of her kids? If police are meant to protect and serve, where was the protection?"
Lisa Young, President of the NAACP Tuscaloosa branch, said that Stephens testifies she was at her residence when officers in an armored vehicle performed a U-turn and approached her, at that point turning their lights on. She also said she was already outside her vehicle when the officers approached her.
"Nobody identified themselves as law enforcement ... This keeps occurring in the Black community," Young said. "When officers encounter Black citizens, there seems to be this excessive force they use, that they don't see when they encounter other people, other races."
At one point, an officer allegedly revealed a Taser and attempted to tase Stephens while she was on the ground until a passerby called out to the officer to stop.
"She has suffered physical damage and bodily harm ... She has incurred large medical bills," Young said. "We believe a full investigation and steps to resolve the issue should be deemed a priority by the community and Tuscaloosa city officials."
Following a series of remarks advocating on behalf of Stephens, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley addressed the council to clarify the situation.
"Nobody likes that video... But I think the whole truth needs to be told," Blankley said. "What we would have loved to happen is those officers walk up to that vehicle, they get a license, proof of insurance. That's how simple it has to be.
"Multiple times, she refused," Blankley continued. "At that point, we're going to, no matter what the color your skin is, or the ethnicity, or your gender, the same outcome is going to happen: you're going to be arrested."
Blankley went on to praise the work his officers have done every single day while being "villainized for doing their job."
"The officers tried to give her a ticket. She refused to cooperate," Blankley said. "Nobody wants to see anybody arrested in front of your kids. We all have children. We all have wives. But the fact of the matter is: she put those kids to see that situation. That's a hard truth, but that's the truth."
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ended the council meeting with the promise that the city would look into the matter, but he did say the officers made the right call by looking into the situation.
“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?”
Stay with The Tuscaloosa Thread for any updates on this story.