Body cam footage of two Orlando Police Department officers pulling over Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala went viral this week, sparking heated debates over whether the stop was warranted.
The video has gained millions of views since it hit social media, with critics on one side accusing the police of racial profiling and others saying that Ayala, Florida’s first elected African-American state attorney, was being rude.
In a statement, Ayala said she was leaving Florida A&M University’s law school around 8 p.m. on June 19 when she was pulled over by the two officers. The video shows officers approach her car and one of them ask for her credentials. That’s when Ayala hands over her license and tells them she’s the state attorney.
It’s routine for officers to run tags while on patrol, department spokeswoman Michelle Guido told the Orlando Sentinel, and Ayala’s tag didn’t appear to be registered to any vehicle. However, Guido added that Florida law allows Ayala to have a confidential tag, along with dark window tint because of her position.
“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,” she told the newspaper.
The traffic stop lasted all of two minutes with no issues, but some critics were quick to cry racial profiling after watching the footage. Some noted how the officers’ demeanor quickly changed after Ayala identified herself as a state official.
Other social media users claimed Ayala was being disrespectful during the stop because she asked for the officers’ names. The officers told her they didn’t have their business cards on them at the moment, but wrote their names down on a piece of paper. Guido noted that officers are required to give their information upon request.
Despite the backlash, both Ayala and experts say the traffic stop was legitimate. The state attorney made sure to note that she hadn’t violated any laws, either. She was not ticketed.
“The traffic stop appears to be consistent with Florida law,” she said in a statement, adding, “the license plate, while confidential, was and remains properly registered … the tint was in no way a violation of Florida law.”
— Monivette Cordeiro (@monivettec) July 12, 2017
There were reports that Ayala planned to sue the Orlando Police Department over the incident, but the state attorney said the rumors are untrue.
“My goal is to have a constructive and mutually respectful relationship between law enforcement and the community,” she said. “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.”
News outlets noted that the body cam footage likely would’ve been forgotten if Ayala wasn’t in it.
The state attorney made headlines earlier this year when she announced that her office would not seek the death penalty in any cases during her tenure. The decision drew swift backlash, especially after she refused to seek the death penalty against accused killer Markeith Lloyd, who is charged in the death of Orlando Police officer Lt. Debra Clayton. Ayala’s declaration resulted in Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott removing her from 24 death-penalty cases in her jurisdiction and giving those cases to a neighboring prosecutor, a move Ayala is challenging in the Florida Supreme Court.
She was threatened with a noose in the mail in April.