Under pressure from supporters of professor Ersula Ore, Arizona State University announced on Wednesday that the officer who arrested her in May has been put on leave.
The power of a viral video seems to be at work here, since ASU had previously ruled that the actions of ASU police officer Stewart Ferrin were A-okay. Since Channel 3 News, (KTVK-TV) obtained and aired Ferrin's dash-cam video of the May 20 arrest, though, ASU's been back-pedaling furiously.
Ore's being prosecuted for felony aggravated assault and three misdemeanors related to her confrontation with Ferrin on College Avenue near Fifth Street in Tempe. But once that video took off, angering the black community and many others who watched it, (and entertaining the rest), ASU decided Ferrin's actions needed review from an outside agency. It announced this decision in a news release late Sunday night, after it was besieged by calls from news media around the country.
On Wednesday, ASU posted on its news website that the university "has placed ASU police officer Stewart Ferrin on paid administrative leave."
The short message goes on to say: "A preliminary review by ASU PD of Ferrin's arrest of ASU assistant professor Ersula Ore found that Ferrin did not engage in racial profiling or use excessive force. However, as part of its ongoing review of the incident, the university has asked the FBI to determine if there were any civil rights violations."
The move to put Ferrin on leave comes a few weeks after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has begun criminal proceedings against Ore, an assistant professor of rhetoric and English and former Penn State University instructor.
The debacle began, reportedly, when Ore became offended that Ferrin spoke to her disrespectfully as he attempted to enforce an anti-jaywalking law. As hundreds of thousands of video viewers have now seen, the squabble ended up in front of the dash-cam of Ferrin's patrol car. After reviewing the video long before it was released to the public, prosecutors decided to move forward with charges against Ore, including the aforementioned felony, plus resisting arrest, obstructing a road, and refusing to give her name to a police officer. However, intelligent people are now disagreeing over whether the video shows an example of police brutality, or a woman who is wrongfully resisting arrest.
Also this week, Channel 3 reported that Ferrin is being accused of being too rough in a second incident. Recent ASU graduate Jason Heckendorn and his lawyer complained to the TV station that Ferrin had been too "aggressive" while arresting Heckendorn for shoving him, and Heckendorn -- who's being prosecuted for "several felony charges" -- rationalizes that he "resisted being pushed (by Ferrin) by natural instinct." Lame excuse by man facing felony charges, or more evidence that Ferrin's out of control? To us, this story has a dogpile feel, but it can't be said that Channel 3 is not on top of this case.
ASU can't afford to take heat, especially if there's a racial component. And after all that hard work last month melding its brand with Starbucks, with the goal of obtaining 100,000 students for its online degree program. Look for another ASU marketing ploy soon to push the Ore headlines down in the search rankings...
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
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