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January 18, 2023

Lower Merion police officer, who used Taser on unarmed Black woman during traffic stop, placed on desk duty

Authorities released body camera footage from the Jan. 8 incident in a Wawa parking lot. The NAACP and Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus have called for reform

Investigations Police
Lower Merion Police Taser Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

A Lower Merion police officer used a Taser on an unarmed Black woman during a Jan. 8 traffic stop in a Wawa parking lot. The department is investigating the officer's use of force, which has been called excessive by community members and local organizations.

The Lower Merion Township police officer who used his Taser on an unarmed Black woman last week has been placed on administrative duty, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The incident prompted community outrage after video surfaced of the incident, which occurred in a Wawa parking lot.

Police shared body camera footage of the Jan. 8 traffic stop during a press briefing Tuesday. Previous footage had come from cellphone videos taken by witnesses in the parking lot of the store at Conshohocken State Road and Rock Hill Road in Bala Cynwyd. 

The woman who was Tased, Chaine Jordan, 36, had refused orders to get out of her maroon Volvo after she was pulled over for tailgating another vehicle, police said. After an argument with police, witnesses described seeing an officer tase Jordan multiple times before pulling her out of her car and handcuffing her on the ground.

Laney Gold-Rappe, one of the witnesses who filmed the encounter on her cellphone, told 6ABC last week that she had heard the woman request a sergeant. An officer then approached the Volvo with a gun drawn, but did not point it at the woman as he began to talk to her, police said. That's when the encounter escalated.

"I am embarrassed for my community," Gold-Rappe said of the conduct she saw from police.

Lower Merion Police Superintendent Mike McGrath said the actions taken by the three officers in the Wawa parking lot were legally justified, but said the department must evaluate its training for the use of a Taser.

"We will be taking lessons learned in this incident to focus on several key factors and training," McGrath said. "Such as handling stressful situations at pivotal moments."

McGrath added, "We can sometimes fail, our officers are human."

The name of the officer who used the Taser was not released by police. The officer is facing an internal disciplinary review and will undergo additional training, CBS3 reported

Police said Jordan first stopped her vehicle about a mile away from the Wawa; a pickup truck driving in front of her also briefly pulled over. Both vehicles then began driving down the road, police said, and officers pursued Jordan's car.  

Jordan put her hazard lights on while police followed her, but authorities said she passed several locations to pull over before entering the Wawa parking lot. The pursuit continued for more than two minutes, police said.

In the parking lot, Jordan refused to provide her license and registration, police said. She also allegedly did not fully roll down her window, which was tinted, when instructed, and refused to exit the vehicle when told she was being placed under arrest.

"There is an unknown risk here. You have the pursuit, you have non-compliance of the occupants. You have an inability to see in the car," Lower Merion Police Capt. Gene Pasternak said. "These are all concerning."

Jordan's attorney, Nadeem Bezar, told 6ABC that the officer drawing his firearm set an unsettling tone for his client.

"I think we all agree guns drawn on a traffic stop is a bit aggressive," Bezar said.

Pasternak said the officers could have used better tactics to de-escalate the situation, rather than using a Taser on on the woman.

Jordan, of Norristown, has been charged with resisting arrest, fleeing an officer, driving with a suspended license and drug offenses, police said. She was taken to a medical facility after the arrest, but was not injured.

The NAACP Main Line Branch said it has initiated its own investigation into what happened and why the use of force was deemed necessary.

"The LMPD has a history of tension with residents of color in Lower Merion Township," the NAACP said. "Its recently reorganized Police and Minority Relations Committee has been contacted for a meeting with members of the branch to understand if policy and procedure were properly followed in this incident and to learn why physical force was warranted to gain control and take the driver into custody."

The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, which called the incident "disturbing," said it has been working on legislation to curb police violence during traffic stops.

"This woman's humanity and rights were disregarded," the PLBC said. "She was physically abused by these men and the system that has for years abused Black and brown folks across this commonwealth. We stand with her and every victim of police violence and will continue our work on police reform in the upcoming legislative session."

The NAACP and community leaders will hold a meeting of the Lower Merion Police Committee at 7 p.m. Wednesday to read a report of the investigation. The meeting will be held at the Lower Merion Township Building at 75 Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore. There will be a period for public comment to invite community members to express their concerns.