Controversy has arisen over a video from the Orlando Police Department that shows two policemen pulling over a woman, to find out that she is actually the Florida State Attorney, Armies Ayala. Ayala is Florida’s first (and only) black State Attorney, and has worked for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court since last November. The officers have now been accused of racial profiling, due to their inability to state a specific reason for the pull-over.
The body-cam footage shows one police officer approaching Ayala’s driver side window, as the other stands on the passenger side. Ayala is taking her ID out of her wallet, when the policeman asks, “Which agency do you work for?”, to which she responds, visibly surprised, “I’m the state attorney.”
The officers told Ayala that she had been pulled over because their attempt to run the tags on her car came up with no results.
When Ayala asks why the tags were run in the first place, the policeman struggles to find a straightforward answer: “We run tags through all the time,” he explains. “Whether it’s a traffic light and that sort of stuff. That’s how we figure out if cars are stolen and that sort of thing.” Seemingly nervous that his response is not satisfactory, he continues, “Also, the windows are really dark,” he says. “I don’t have a tint measure but that’s another reason for the stop.”
The State Attorney holds back a smile, clearly frustrated with the circumstances, before asking the policemen to give her their cards. Neither officer had their cards, so they instead wrote their contact information down on a piece of paper. The officer on the driver’s side, who’s tone is now extremely polite toward Ayala, says, “there you go, have a good day”, before letting her go without a ticket.
The Orlando Police Department has said that it “allows the running of tags for official business only, and this is done routinely on patrol”. This in support of the defense the police officer gave to Ayala, saying “we run tags all the time.”
In a statement, the Department said: “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. 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.”
Ayala has stated to the The Independent, “To be clear, I violated no laws. The license plate, while confidential, was and remains properly registered… The tint was in no way a violation of Florida law. Although the traffic stop appears to be consistent with Florida law.”
Although Ayala has chosen not to press any charges against the officers, she does hope to turn this situation into a learning moment. Ayala ran for State Attorney with the promise to try to bridge gaps between communities of color in Florida.
“My goal is to have a constructive and mutually respectful relationship between law enforcement and the community. I look forward to sitting down to have an open dialogue with the Chief of Orlando Police Department regarding how this incident impacts that goal.”