White Officers Accused Of Racial Profiling After Stopping Florida’s First Black State Attorney Aramis Ayala

State Attorney Aramis Ayala was allegedly the victim of racial profiling by white police officers
Brendan Farrington

Last month Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala was pulled over by two white officers from the Orlando Police Department.

Now, footage recorded on one of the officers’ body cam has been released, and commentators are alleging that Ms. Ayala, who is a black woman, was the victim of racial profiling.

At around 8:15 p.m. on June 19, Aramis Ayala, one of Florida’s most powerful officials, was driving along an Orlando road when officers switched on their police vehicle lights to signal a traffic stop. The officer equipped with the body cam approached the driver’s side of Ms. Ayala’s vehicle, while a second officer moved to the passenger door.

Ms. Ayala let down both front windows to communicate with the law enforcement officials, removed her driver’s license from her purse, and handed it to the first officer. At this stage of the encounter, the state attorney had not yet been informed why she was stopped.

The Daily Mail reported that the first officer recognized Aramis after inspecting her license, at which point Ms. Ayala began to interrogate the officials as to the reason for the stop.

Apparently, the officers had run a license plate identification scan and could not ascertain the identity of the person registered to the vehicle.

“Your tag didn’t come back, never seen that before, but we’re good now. We ran the tag, I’ve never seen it before with a Florida tag, it didn’t come back to anything, so that’s the reason for the stop.”

After explaining that she was Florida’s state attorney, Ms. Ayala, now visibly annoyed, asked, “what was the tag run for?”

“Oh we run tags through all the time, whether it’s a traffic light and that sort stuff, that’s how we figure out if cars are stolen and that sort of thing,” replied the officer.

Ms. Ayala was also informed that her car windows were too darkly tinted, even though the officers could not accurately measure the shade.

“Also, the windows are really dark, I don’t have a tint measure but that’s another reason for the stop.”

The state attorney then requested their names, after which the officer wearing the body cam proceeded to write down his name, as well as the name of his colleague, and handed the piece of paper to Ms. Ayala.

It is not possible to determine, from the recording, if the officer was shaken once he had learned that Ms. Ayala was one of Florida’s highest ranking officials. Nevertheless, the cop maintained a cordial tone throughout, ending the encounter by saying, “Have a good day.”

Though the incident has not been confirmed as a case of racial profiling, the United States is known for difficulties with racially skewed statistics when it comes to interactions with law enforcement officers.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), racial profiling is a “longstanding and deeply troubling national problem” that occurs every day in cities and towns across America, despite the U.S. being in a post-racial era.

Specifically, regarding law enforcement, racial profiling is an approach by which officials allegedly “target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

The ACLU points out that racial profiling is a direct violation of equal protection provisions included in the U.S. Constitution that are designed to shield citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Despite the fact that nine out of ten times police will find no illegal possessions, a report in 2011 found that African Americans and Hispanics are excessively stopped by law enforcement officials.

Similarly, the ACLU found that the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program showed significant signs of racial bias amongst police officers who were stopping African Americans and Latinos for roughly 85 percent of the time.

In November last year, Aramis Ayala became Florida’s first African American state attorney. Since assuming office, Ayala has frequently made the news for asserting that she would not be seeking the death penalty for capital crimes.

This has placed her at odds with Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is a proponent of capital punishment. Governor Scott responded by removing 20 cases from her schedule, resulting in Ayala taking the matter to Florida’s Supreme Court. Ms. Ayala argued that Scott violated her constitutional right to enforce her preferred measures while acting as the state’s attorney.

Aramis Ayala graduated with a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Following a battle with what was initially diagnosed as terminal cancer, Ayala made a full recovery and eventually rapidly ascended the political path to Florida’s most influential lawyer.

[Featured Image by Brendan Farrington/AP Images]