Stewart Ferrin, seen here during a 2015 pro-police rally, had a much higher than average number of public complaints in 2017 than his fellow deputies.
Stewart Ferrin, seen here during a 2015 pro-police rally, had a much higher than average number of public complaints in 2017 than his fellow deputies.
Ray Stern

Bad Math: Pinal Data Worse Than Reported on Deputy Who Abused ASU Professor

A Pinal County deputy accused by an Arizona State University professor of harassing motorists has a much higher average number of public complaints compared to the rest of the department than officials previously stated.

Deputy Stewart Ferrin made national headlines as an ASU police officer in 2014, when he arrested black history professor Ersula Ore in downtown Tempe during a jaywalking stop. A dash-cam video of the arrest showed Ore being forced to the ground by the white officer.

Ferrin resigned from ASU but later regained the right to work as a peace officer. He started with Pinal County in March.

For Tuesday's article in New Times about fresh allegations by Ore against Ferrin, a spokeswoman for Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said that Ferrin has fewer complaints during public contacts compared to the average PCSO deputy.

Phoenix New Times asked for the statistics that back up the claim. On Wednesday, the agency released the numbers and a summary of the data by spokeswoman Navideh Forghani.

She wrote that the department has 84 deputies and received 26 complaints from the public between March 27, 2017 (the date of Ferrin's hire), and January 29. During that same time period, the average number of public contacts per deputy was 878, while Ferrin made an impressive 2,570 contacts.

As noted in Tuesday's article, Ferrin has received three official complaints since he started work in Pinal County.

As a whole, Forghani wrote in an email, the agency is "averaging 3.2 complaints per deputy. Considering Ferrin has almost three times the contact and only three complaints against him. He is well below our average."

In fact, the figures show that — after subtracting out Ferrin's stats — the other deputies average only about one-quarter of a complaint each over the same period. Multiplying that by three, (to account for Ferrin's three-fold higher number of public contacts), still only comes out to about three-quarters of a complaint each. Ferrin's ratio of complaints per public contact is 300 percent higher than the agency average for deputies.

Another way of looking at the stats is that the agency received one complaint per 3,100 contacts for all of its deputies, not including Ferrin, yet Ferrin received three complaints from 2,570 contacts.

Forghani said the math error was an "honest mistake" by the agency.

"Our initial statement was based on a tentative estimate before the stats were gathered and refined," she said.

Yet the agency wasn't ready to change its tune about Ferrin after the math correction.

"We are not concerned about the complaints against him and we do not feel there are going to be any management issues down the road," Forghani said, echoing what PCSO said earlier this week about Ferrin.

She also pointed out that the type of complaints matter. The agency found two of Ferrin's three official complaints unfounded. The third one is still pending. She could not immediately provide statistics that show how the 23 complaints about other deputies had been resolved.

Ferrin's record at his new job became an issue recently after Ore complained to Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb and the county board of supervisors about him in a lengthy, late-December email. Ore claims that Ferrin is still mistreating the people he stopped and might end up killing someone.

Her letter and email to New Times this week about Ferrin described two cases of alleged harassment by Ferrin of motorists he stopped in the last few months. New Times talked to one of the motorists, southeast Valley businessman Thom Petteruti, who said Ferrin left the scene of an accident to chase him, pulled him out of his car, handcuffed him, "ransacked" his car, then told the motorist he wanted to teach him a "lesson."

Ferrin made no report of the December 11 stop. After Petteruti wrote about the encounter on Facebook, Sheriff Lamb gave him a call about it. The sheriff subsequently had Ferrin write a summary of what happened during the stop, a copy of which has been requested by New Times.

Ferrin's version of the stop differed from Petteruti's — he told the sheriff he pulled Petteruti over for cutting off other drivers. Lamb didn't discipline Ferrin, but talked to the deputy about his demeanor with members of the public, Forghani said.

In the other case Ore mentioned in her letter, San Tan Valley resident Oliver Mwamba claimed Ferrin screamed at him and manhandled him while taking him out of his car during a DUI investigation. Ore said Mwamba told her he "was beaten after being forced to exit the car under the influence of a taser pointed by Officer Ferrin."

Ferrin cited Mwamba for resisting arrest, speeding, and failure to obey an officer; the case is still pending in Pinal County Justice Court. Mwamba couldn't be reached for comment.

After Ferrin arrested Ore in 2014, the professor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge and served nine months of probation. Yet she seemed to win in the court of public opinion, with Ferrin's critics proving the most vocal. And she won at ASU, considering she's still there and Ferrin isn't.

She won't let the public or Pinal County forget about what happened back in 2014 between her and Ferrin.

And she has friends: Fellow ASU colleague Karmella Haynes, as assistant professor in biological and health systems engineering, started an online petition on Monday demanding that Ferrin be fired, be stripped of his right to carry firearms, and be added to the "Brady List" of dishonest officers maintained by prosecutors.

Haynes describes herself as a "dear friend" of Ore's. She wrote on the petition that she has watched Ore "endure dubious legal charges and victim-blaming from the Blue Lives Matter crowd," and that Ferrin "needs to be stopped" before he "kills someone."

Haynes also wrote that Ferrin "assaulted 7 people" while employed at ASU for two years.

That number also appears inaccurate: Records show that Ferrin received four public complaints during his time at ASU, and that three of them were deemed unfounded. An external investigation by ASU did not conclude that Ferrin had "assaulted" anyone.

The petition had nearly 200 online signers from Arizona and elsewhere in the country as of Wednesday evening.

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