Chances are that, at some point in the past, you’ve crossed the street or stepped off the sidewalk when you didn’t have the right of way. Maybe there was no crosswalk in sight and you didn’t see any oncoming traffic, or maybe an obstruction on the sidewalk forced you to walk on the side of the road for a short time. That’s exactly what Ersula Ore, an associate professor at Arizona State University, was doing when police stopped her on the night of May 20th.
Dr. Ore was with a group of people crossing the street diagonally to avoid road construction when ASU police officer Stewart Ferrin stopped her. An audio recording reveals that Mr. Ferrin asked to see Dr. Ore’s ID on the grounds that she was violating the law by obstructing traffic. In the recording, Ore asks, “Are you serious?” at which point Ferrin says, “If you don’t understand the law, I’m explaining it to you. The reason I’m talking to you right now is because you are walking in the middle of the street.”
Ore refused to show her ID, and an argument escalated, attracting the attention of several people on a nearby sidewalk. Ferrin eventually threatened Ore by saying, “Put your hands behind your back right now, I’m going to slam you on this car…” Dashcam footage from the nearby police cruiser reveals that when Ore refused, Ferrin threw her to the ground and handcuffed her. Ferrin and another officer then pulled Ore to her feet, and at that point Ore kicked Ferrin in the shin, which she says was in self-defense. As a result, she now faces criminal charges for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
The incident shocked many of the bystanders, including one young man who called 911 to report that the police officer appeared to be behaving way too aggressively towards the young woman he was arresting. Community members were shocked to see the campus police taking such an extreme line with a professor for cutting across a road simply to avoid construction, especially when so many other people on the ASU campus were doing the exact same thing.
Was Racial Profiling Involved in Professor’s Arrest?
The fact that Dr. Ore, who is African-American, was the only person who was stopped by the police for crossing the street has raised some eyebrows. Official representatives from ASU have claimed that they do not believe the arrest was unlawful or racially motivated, but that they are working with outside investigators to get to the bottom of the matter. The Arizona Ethnic Studies Network, meanwhile, has issued a statement of concern in which they ask for an audit of the ASU police department that looks at how officers are trained, including what they are taught about racial profiling and the use of excessive force.
Whether the arrest was racially motivated or not, it seems clear from the transcript and the dashcam footage that Ferrin did not treat Ore with the basic respect to which every person is entitled. He started the exchange in a combative manner by condescendingly asking Ore if she knew the difference between a road and a sidewalk and, instead of remaining calm and professional when Ore refused to show her ID, became increasingly threatening and physically aggressive.
While it may not have been prudent for Ore to resist arrest, Ferrin also used poor judgment in his treatment of the situation. Now, not only is Ore fighting the assault and other criminal charges levelled against her with the help of a defense attorney, but her case has attracted the attention of media outlets around the world, and advocates have started a petition on MoveOn.org to get the campus police to drop the charges and issue an apology.
Accused of Assault while Resisting Arrest? You Need a Defense Attorney
Dr. Ore’s particular case has gotten a lot of attention and highlights potential issues with racial profiling and police brutality on the ASU campus, but it’s certainly not the only case of its kind. Police have a lot of authority and, unfortunately, some officers use that authority in a way that is not appropriate or just.
If you are charged with assaulting a police officer or resisting arrest simply because you were trying to protect yourself from an overly aggressive arresting officer, you need to talk to a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Not only should you protect your rights, you should draw attention to this problem in the hopes of preventing that arresting officer from committing future acts of excessive force.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.