On May 20, Dr. Ersula Ore, an English professor at Arizona State University was stopped in the middle of the street by ASU Police Officer Stewart Ferrin for obstructing a public thoroughfare—jaywalking. When Ferrin asked for her identification, she refused to provide it, having been warned she faced arrest for not presenting it. Ore resisted arrest, dented and scratched a police vehicle, and kicked the arresting officer in the shin. She was arrested and is being charged with a class five felony aggravated assault and two misdemeanors. She has claimed that she was acting in self defense, and the story appeared to end there.
But footage released this weekend shows that the altercation went down very differently than described. In the dash camera video, Ore, whose only threat was walking across a street to avoid construction on the sidewalk, clearly attempts to reason with the police officer, but is met with disregard which escalated into violence.
Ferrin: Let me see your ID or you will be arrested for failing to provide ID
Ore: Are you serious?
Ferrin: Yes, I'm serious. That is the law. If you don't understand the law I'm explaining the law to you right now. You're walking down the middle of the road, which is a public thoroughfare—
Ore: Which I have no problem with abiding by the law, but all I'm asking, do you have to speak to me in such a disrespectful manner? That's all I ask of you…I have been here for over three years and everybody walks this street…I never once saw a single solitary individual get pulled over by a cop for walking across a street on a campus, in a campus location. Everybody has been doing this because it is all obstructed. That's the reason why. But you stop me in the middle of the street to pull me over and ask me, 'Do you know what this is? This is a street.'…
Ferrin: Are you aware this is a street?
Ore: Let me finish
Ferrin: OK, put your hands behind your back
Ore: Don't touch me, get your hands off me…
Ferrin: …Put your hands behind your back right now. I'm going to slam you on this car. Put your hand behind your back
Ore: You really want to do that? Do you see what I'm wearing? Do you see?
Ferrin: I don't care what you are wearing.
ORE: Don't talk to me like that. This entire thing has been about your lack of respect for me as a citizen, as a professor of...Arizona State University.
Here's a video of the raw footage. It's all audio until 2:15—it is shocking, so be warned.
Ferrin throws her to the ground, exposing her as she was wearing a dress. When the officers pull her to her feet and Ferrin attempts to adjust her dress and pull it back down, she kicks Ferrin in the shin. As Ferrin cuffs her, the other officer tells her to relax.
Clearly, the footage is painting a very different picture of the situation than what was largely reported and considered a closed case by ASU, the ASU PD, and media. And it's very clear that ASU is distancing themselves from the situation. They released a statement to 3TV, saying:
"ASU authorities have reviewed the circumstances surrounding the arrest and have found no evidence of inappropriate actions by the ASUPD officers involved. Should such evidence be discovered, an additional, thorough inquiry will be conducted and appropriate actions taken..."
The Arizona Ethnic Studies Network has called out ASU on their response to the matter, demanding that they launch a "comprehensive investigation into this matter as well as an audit on the conduct of its police force vis-à-vis racial profiling."
Dr. Ore will be fighting the charges, and there is currently a petition, calling for the ASU Police Department to drop all charges and "issue an unquantified apology." We reached out to Dr. Ore and were able to get in touch with her lawyer Alane Roby to discuss the situation. When we asked for her response to ASU deeming the situation not a case of racial profiling, she told Jezebel:
I think as far as liability goes it would be in their best interest to hope that it's not a case of racial profiling. That being said, I have several witnesses that were there that evening that were also crossing the street, and none of them happened to be black and none of them happened to be women. One of them called 911.
This is not Roby's first case of abuse at the hands of police in Arizona. It's not even her first case of a white police officer antagonizing and assaulting black civilians over minor offenses. Roby went on to emphasize the indiscretion of the police officers, highlighting the need for a forum to address police abuse, and a realistic way to address how police officers respond to the idea of respect, saying:
"I think the bigger issue is that there needs to be an open discussion about the way that officers respond to the general public, how they treat them, the type of respect that they demand and [how they] respond to the type of respect they get initially. The situation was exacerbated for no reason. It was jaywalking—[it] shouldn't have ended up with a woman on the ground with dress over her head, being told she'd be slammed on a car. It's just inappropriate, it's oppressive…
Regardless, if he didn't like the way that Ore was speaking to him or if she was jaywalking, the reality is that these officers should be trained to diffuse the situation instead of exacerbate it…When it's contentious from the beginning, when the civilians are treated with disrespect, when they're treated as criminals right away, things like this happen and it's dangerous for everybody. But we need to have a discussion about how to prevent it…"