Two Top-Ranking ASU PD Officials Leave Positions Following Ersula Ore Controversy

A second high-ranking Arizona State University police department official is stepping down unexpectedly following a backlash over the arrest of assistant professor Ersula Ore.

Another email that surfaced on a blog by people disgruntled with ASU police confirms that Assistant Chief James Hardina is leaving this week. ASU Police Chief John Pickens is also leaving his position, moving into another university position. Both departures come as one of their officers, Stewart Ferrin, is being scrutinized by the FBI at the request of ASU.

See also: -Ersula Ore Arrest to be Reviewed by ASU and Outside Agency After Video Goes Viral

The new email, this one from Michael Thompson, acting police chief as of today, was sent to ASU police personnel. It states that Assistant Chief Hardina has decided to retire after 22 years in law enforcement in order to pursue his business interests. Thompson ties Hardina's departure to the fact that Pickens is leaving early, something that still hasn't been fully explained by ASU officials.

"With the current transition of leadership within the department, Jim decided this was the best time for a career change," Thompson's email states.

(Note: The email, as published, was edited by the Integrity Blog to include some biting insults and criticism of Hardina, conveniently highlighted in red to distinguish it from Hardina's words.)

Whether connected to Ore or not, the fact that Hardina sees the need to leave now starts to sound like an unplanned leadership meltdown at ASU PD.

And really, the timing of these departures is suspicious. ASU has been dealing with a firestorm in the last couple of weeks, since a video of Ore's May 20 violent, jaywalking-related arrest went viral, causing a national controversy. According to a June news release by ASU, Pickens was supposed to be staying in his position until the completion of a national search. But it didn't happen that way.

ASU spokeswoman Sharon Keeler told us this morning that she didn't know why Pickens was leaving, but "someone" had told her that Pickens "had" to take his annual leave. She declined to clarify the comment, other than to say Pickens wasn't "forced" to take his leave. Newberg tells New Times the departures are "unrelated" to the controversy.

At about 2 p.m. today, Newberg confirmed the news about Hardina and issued a longer response on the departures. As you'll see, though, the response doesn't explain everything:

"Both Chief John Pickens and Assistant Chief Jim Hardina decided to pursue other opportunities in their careers before the arrest of ASU Assistant Professor Ersula Ore.

"As announced last month, Arizona State University Police Department Chief John Pickens is transitioning to a new job at the university as Executive Director of University Security Initiatives after serving as chief for 14 years. Pickens will oversee expansion of the university's video security system and other emerging public safety technologies, assist the Office of Emergency Preparedness and lead security planning for the Sun Devil Stadium project.

"Assistant Chief Jim Hardina is retiring after 22 years of service in law enforcement. Hardina will pursue business interests and further his career in ultra-endurance sport training, promotion and competing. He joined the ASU Police Department in May of 2000 as an officer and was promoted through the ranks to assistant chief in July of 2012.

"Assistant Chief Michael Thompson has been named acting police chief while a national search for a new chief is underway. Thompson served the Mesa Police Department with distinction for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor's degree in education and two master's degrees, one in education and one in administration. He has provided ASUPD leadership as a commander over patrol at the ASU West campus, and commander and then Assistant Chief at the Tempe campus."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.