ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — State Attorney Aramis Ayala has announced a new policy directing assistant state attorneys in the Ninth Judicial Circuit not to prosecute cases involving resisting an officer without violence, except under aggravating circumstances.

What You Need To Know

  • Policy is response to calls for change, state attorney says

  • Change goes into effect immediately

  • Arrested protesters will be placed into diversion program

  • The program includes a video to educate protesters on legal system

The policy does not change Florida law, and it also doesn’t change whether an officer can arrest someone. It does change how Assistant State Attorneys handle these cases in Orange and Osceola Counties.

Ayala said her policy is in direct response to the arrests made during the Black Lives Matter movement.

Instead of prosecuting arrests involving resisting an officer without violence, Alaya is directing Assistant State Attorneys to put people into a diversion program — which includes a video — to educate them on the legal system.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, in the past 12 months, 63 percent of resisting an officer without violence cases submitted by law enforcement were for Black people. That is a percentage nearly triple the Black population in Orange County, which is at 22.8 percent.

Lawanna Gelzer is a community activist in Orlando who says she’s seen peaceful protesters wrongfully arrested.

“This has been an entire summer where a lot of young people who have got involved in the movement have been arrested for protesting, and the things they were doing were not a reason for them to have that type of arrest,” she said.

We asked Ayala whether she had spoken directly with law enforcement agencies before issuing this policy. She said she hadn’t but imagines they would support her policy because her diversion program includes understanding compliance.

We reached out to Orange County Sheriff John Mina and Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon for comment. Both declined an interview, but told us the State Attorney’s Office never reached out to their agency before making this announcement.

Mina sent Spectrum News 13 the following statement:

“I was surprised to be informed of this policy change through the media. The State Attorney did not confer with me, or other law enforcement leaders I’m aware of, when considering this action.

I understand and support the desire for criminal justice reform. But these decisions should be thoughtful, and carefully considered by all members of the law enforcement community and their stakeholders. I am extremely concerned this action will cause confusion in our community. People should know it is still a violation of the law to refuse to follow the instructions of law enforcement.”

Rolon also provided a statement reading in part: "We received the policy this morning and are reviewing it. We will continue to work with the SAO in our shared mission to ensure the safety of everyone in this community and for just accountability when laws are violated."

For Gelzer, she applauds Ayala for a policy she says will help level the playing field, and protect the right to peacefully protest.

“It’s time to hold law enforcement accountable, that’s all we’re asking for,” she said.

Ayala is not seeking re-election in November, but she did say she hopes whoever takes over as State Attorney will keep this policy in place.

We reached out to the two candidates who are running for State Attorney Ninth Judicial Circuit and asked whether they support this policy and would like to continue it. Neither responded for this story.​