ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) — Being one of the most recognizable state attorneys in Florida didn’t prevent Orange-Osecola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from being a victim of racial profiling by Orlando Police on June 19, 2017 at approximately 8:14pm.
In 2016, Ayala became Florida’s first black State Attorney elected to public office and recently made national news when she announced that her office would no longer pursue the death penalty.
However, a recent video appeared showing State Attorney Ayala being pulled over by Orlando Police officers in an unmarked police vehicle with red and blue lights flashing. There are five major things wrong with this traffic stop.
WRONG #1: IGNORANCE OF PRIVACY LAWS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT & PUBLIC OFFICIALS
News flash: State Attorney Ayala is a public official and the 9th Judicial Circuit’s chief law enforcement officer.
The video shows the officer approaching State Attorney Ayala’s vehicle wearing a body-cam. He stated that he pulled Ayala over for having a license plate registered with no identifying information when he ran her tag with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). He claimed he never encountered this before. When State Attorney Ayala asked why her plate was run, he told her they run plates all the time, and made sure to note: “That’s how we figure out if vehicles are stolen, that sort of thing…”
Okay. State Attorney Ayala is driving a Ford Fusion. Who would steal that? And why would she?
Anyway, it is not uncommon for current and former sworn or civilian law enforcement personnel, public officials, including state attorneys to apply with the DHSMV to withhold personal information contained in their driver’s license and vehicle, pursuant to section 119.071, Florida Statutes.
Pursuant to section 119.071(4)(d)8., Florida Statutes:
“An agency that is the custodian of the personal information specified [in these subparagraphs] . . . shall maintain the exempt status of the personal information only if the officer, employee, justice, judge, other person, or employing agency of the designated employee submits a written request for maintenance of the exemption to the custodial agency.” See AGO 2008-29
It appears State Attorney Ayala requested the DHSMV to protect her personal information, including information connected to her vehicle’s license plate.
If she didn’t violate any traffic laws, what other reason could there be for her getting pulled over by Orlando Police?
WRONG #2: PARTNER OUT FIRST, BODY CAM LAST = SAFETY ISSUE
These officers apparently said, “to hell with Policy and Procedures” for this traffic stop. In the video, by the time the officer wearing the body camera steps out of the unmarked police truck, his partner is already at State Attorney Ayala’s passenger side window (above). Why?
The officer wearing the body camera was the one at the wheel and the one who appeared to turn his lights on in order for State Attorney Ayala to pull over. While in the truck, he told the second officer, “You go, and I’ll stay here.” Why would he let his partner get out first? This move potentially put State Attorney Ayala and OPD in harm’s way because anything could’ve happened between the second officer and State Attorney Ayala in the seconds it took the body cam officer to reach the car. The public doesn’t have any information on what took place in those seconds because we don’t yet know if that second officer was wearing a body camera of his own. This is clearly disturbing.
WRONG #3: EXPOSING STATE ATTORNEY AYALA’S DRIVER LICENSE
Firstly, according to the video, it isn’t apparent if the officer asks State Attorney Ayala for her driver license and vehicle registration per standard procedure. (If the second officer asked, we won’t know because he was at her window first and we currently have no footage of their conversation.)
But here’s what’s worse: At the end of the video, we see that OPD blurred State Attorney Ayala’s vehicle plate. However, when the body camera officer received her driver license, it was never blurred out, which puts State Attorney Ayala and her family in harm’s way by exposing her personal information, and ultimately defeated the purpose of Section 119.071 of the Florida Statutes. If you blur out a person’s tag, why would you not blur out her personal identification information? It appears this move was deliberate.
WRONG #4: THE WINDOW TINTING PRETEXT
The officer additionally mentioned that State Attorney Ayala’s windows were “really dark,” but struggled to cover himself by saying he didn’t have a tint measurer. Look carefully at her vehicle’s rear window in the image below, through which one can glimpse the officer’s partner on the other side. His comment on that was an unforced error.
Even State Attorney Ayala knew he was in the wrong–she smirked to herself as he stumbled through his words.
WRONG #5: NEITHER OFFICER HAD CONTACT CARDS
As any diligent citizen would do, State Attorney Ayala requested that both officers furnish their contact cards. Neither officer did. The body cam officer was about to move off, but then explained that he had none because the unmarked vehicle he was driving wasn’t his vehicle.
Under normal circumstances, any civilian that would’ve requested the officers’ information would’ve been charged with resisting without violence (RWOV). However, given whom the officers pulled over, they didn’t try that.
As if all that wasn’t awkward enough, look in the lower right corner of the video and take note of the date on which it happened: June 19, 2017.
African Americans are becoming increasingly more aware of the significance of this date in American history as their true “independence day” instead of July 4…but so is the rest of the nation, and not all knowledge is used with good intentions.
WHAT OPD SHOULD DO NEXT
First, these officers need more training regarding OPD body camera procedure. Second, OPD needs to take steps to ensure drivers’ privacy rights are protected, the first of which should be taking this video down and correcting it to have State Attorney Ayala’s driver license information blurred to assure she has the full protection she applied for under Section 119.071 of the Florida Statutes.
SILVER LINING: AT LEAST EVERYONE CAME OUT ALIVE
Let’s be real. If the driver were any other civilian of color in the same situation, the person would’ve likely been seriously injured, arrested, or killed. Thank God that didn’t happen.
Willie David is the Founder and Publisher of Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org