Police traffic stop of black female state attorney raises viral debate

Orlando police pulled over Florida’s first African-American state attorney last month, sparking debate after body-camera footage of the brief traffic stop was released.

The video of the police’s interaction with Aramis Ayala, recorded on a body camera worn by one of the officers, surfaced online this week and has been viewed by millions.

Some viewers accused the officers of racial profiling, others claimed that Ayala acted rudely.

According to Ayala and local experts, the traffic stop was routine and remained within the parameters of normal police procedure.

Ayala released a statement which said that no lawsuit has been filed and that the stop “appears consistent with Florida law,” even though she was not in violation of any traffic laws.

The attention that the video has gotten is likely attributable to the fact that Ayala is the person involved in the traffic stop. Earlier this year, Ayala was in the news when she refused to pursue the death penalty in violent felony cases, placing her office in a legal standoff with Gov. Rick Scott and triggering backlash.

Ayala was stopped by Orlando Police officers around 8:15 p.m. on June 19 after leaving Florida A&M University College of Law, where she teaches. Body camera footage shows the brief interaction between Ayala and two officers.

One of the officers asked Ayala what agency she is with as he checked her license.

“I’m the state attorney,” she replied as the officer returned her license.

The officer wearing the body camera told Ayala that a check on her license plate had come up blank, something he had never seen with a Florida license plate.

“What was the tag run for?” Ayala asked.

The officer told Ayala that it was routine to run checks on tags. He also noted that her windows were “really dark,” and said that was why they stopped her.

Ayala asked for the officers for their cards, and was given the information prior to the officers walking away.

Orlando Police said in an emailed statement that the department routinely checks tags on patrol, and those in the department are only allowed to run them when it obtains to official business.

“In regards to the video, which was released by the Orlando Police Department last month, the officers stated the tag did not come back as registered to any vehicle,” the statement said. “As you can see in the video, the window tint was dark, and officers would not have been able to tell who, or how many people, were in the vehicle.”

Regarding the traffic stop, Tampa defense attorney Bryant Camareno said, “I didn’t see anything wrong.” Camareno contended that if he had to defend the case, it would be difficult to point to any type of discrimination against Ayala. “It would be very difficult for me to argue that this was an illegal stop.”

In her statement, Ayla said she had not violated any laws.

“The license plate, while confidential, was and remains properly registered,” she said. “The tint was in no way a violation of Florida law.”

Ayala said that she intends to work toward a mutually respectful relationship with law enforcement and the community.

 

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