posted on behalf of Arizona Critical Ethnic Studies
Arizona State University (ASU) recently initiated termination proceedings against Officer Stewart Ferrin, the police officer involved in the incident with Professor Ersula Ore last May, which led to Ore’s arrest. Subsequently, Ferrin, who is white, has received overwhelmingly sympathetic news coverage from local media, including an interview with his mother where she asserted that her son “did nothing wrong.” In contrast, the primary image used by the media to represent Dr. Ore, who is African American, is her mug shot. Such tactics unfairly cast Professor Ore as always and only criminal and engender further sympathy for Ferrin, allowing him to continue to publicly justify his actions. Ferrin’s termination proceedings are now on hold, pending the decision of ASU Police Department’s new chief of police.
Ferrin has repeatedly justified his actions, stating that, “I did what I was trained to do.” However, the sympathetic media portrayals of Ferrin omit that in his two years on the force (and previous to the incident with Ore), five citizen complaints – more than twice the number of complaints against any other officer during the same time period – were filed against him for abusive language, unsatisfactory performance, and rude and threatening behavior. We wonder what, exactly, was Ferrin trained to do? And if Ferrin did what he was trained to do, on what grounds did ASU decide that his job should be terminated?
The members of Arizona Critical Ethnic Studies (AZCES) have previously expressed grave concerns regarding the incident involving Officer Ferrin and Professor Ore. In this prolonged moment of widespread questioning of law enforcement priorities and practices across the nation, we continue to demand that the University be held accountable for the conduct of its police force. Last summer, in response to public pressure, ASU released an internal statement supporting Ore and promising a full, independent investigation into the incident in addition to the then-pending, FBI investigation. However, the University has yet to release any results of the independent investigation. We continue to be troubled by ASU’s ongoing silence and failure to explain the incident to the public, particularly in light of a number of voices suggesting that Professor Ore’s experience was neither isolated nor exceptional.
While we commend the University for appearing to take steps to deal appropriately with the incident and the officer involved, we continue to urge ASU to release the results of the independent investigation and publicly address our previous calls to conduct an independent and thorough audit of its overall police conduct with regard to racial profiling and the use of force. To this end, we request specific responses to the following questions that remain unanswered:
- What policies and practices are in place at ASUPD regarding accountability for racial profiling and use of force? How are complaints filed and investigated? What is ASUPD’s record of complaints? What kinds of training are in place to ensure police conduct that upholds the rights and dignity of all ASU community members?
- What is the name of the outside law enforcement agency that reviewed this case? What did they review? What are the standards they use to evaluate officer conduct? How many similar audits have they conducted in the past and what have been the outcomes of their investigations? Did any ASU community members (faculty, students, and staff) participate in conducting or overseeing the review?
- When and how will the results of the investigation be shared with the public?
We believe that the public has the right to know and be assured that the University is accountable for the conduct of its police force. We join communities and organizations throughout the country in emphasizing the need for all law enforcement agencies to prioritize and ensure the rights, dignity, and safety of everyone.
Contact: AZCriticalEthnicStudies AT gmail DOT com
 http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/12-news/2015/01/17/12news-exclusive-stewart-ferrin-talks/21934463/; http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe/2015/01/22/asu-police-officer-leave-extended-until-chief-decides/22161387/
 The one exception to the rule, Phoenix New Times, did print a different picture of Ore, but only on the jump page; they still led the article with Ore’s mug shot transposed over the dashcam video of the incident, paired with a photo of a smiling, friendly-looking Ferrin (out of uniform). http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2015/01/ersula_ore_sues_asu_for_2m_but_asu_supports_her_with_move_to_fire_cop.php