posted on behalf of Arizona Critical Ethnic Studies
As we mourn the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, young Black man from Ferguson, Missouri, and express our collective outrage and sadness at the escalating accounts of excessive and lethal force used by police across the country, we must recognize the direct relationship between these deaths and abusive incidents that occur in our own backyard. The members of Arizona Critical Ethnic Studies (AZCES) have previously expressed grave concerns regarding the recent incident involving the Arizona State University (ASU) police and ASU professor Ersula Ore. In this moment of widespread questioning of law enforcement priorities and practices across the nation, AZCES continues to demand that the University be held 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.
After a tremendous outpouring of public support for Professor Ore and national and international media scrutiny of the incident, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office dropped the most egregious charges against Professor Ore. Nevertheless, under plea agreement, she pled guilty to one misdemeanor count and was sentenced to nine months of probation and 50 hours of community service. As Reuters reported: “Ore told the Court the incident had changed her life forever and that she still believed she was unjustly abused.” In her own words, she stated, “I am hurt. I’m upset. I am angry. I feel dirty and I feel violated.” Currently, the FBI is reviewing the incident and the arresting officer, Stewart Ferrin, remains on paid administrative leave. Despite disturbing video evidence of the incident and the ongoing FBI investigation, Professor Ore was chastised by the sentencing judge and was explicitly instructed to obey the police in the future, regardless of the circumstances. AZCES is troubled both by the tone and sentiment of the judge’s remarks because they preemptively deny Professor’s Ore’s civil liberties, especially her right to due process.
We are also troubled by ASU continued silence and failure to explain the incident to the public, particularly in light of a growing number of voices suggesting that Professor Ore’s experience was not isolated or exceptional. While we commend the University for cooperating with the FBI’s investigation on the specific incident involving Professor Ore, we urge ASU to publicly address our previous call 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 will be reviewing this case? What, specifically will they be reviewing? What are the standards they will be using to evaluate officer conduct? How many similar audits have they conducted in the past and what have been the outcomes of their investigations?
- How will the results of this investigation (as well as that of the current FBI’s investigation) be shared with the public and will any ASU community members (faculty, students, and staff) be participating in conducting or overseeing the review?
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.