English Professor Thrown to the Ground and Arrested for Jaywalking

It happened on May 20th. Remember? Something recently reminded me of this incident.
Crime • Views: 19,255
Ersula Ore. Photo from Phoenix New Times.

A jaywalking rarely makes national news, but the arrest of Arizona professor Ersula Ore has done just that.

What began as a walk home from classes at Arizona State University ended with police charging the professor with assault.

The English professor was walking in the middle of a Tempe, Arizona, street one evening last month when a campus police officer stopped her. The incident escalated, and she was handcuffed and landed on the pavement.

Appearing Monday on CNN’s “New Day,” Ore was asked about her own words and actions in the incident and replied, “I think I did what I was supposed to do. I was respectful. I asked for clarification. I asked to be treated with respect, and that was it.”


Read the whole CNN story here: Arizona Professor’s Jaywalking Arrest Gets Out of Hand

The police officer in the case was put on paid administrative leave.

An Arizona State University police officer whose arrest of an ASU professor in May has drawn national attention is now on leave, and the university has asked the FBI to review whether any civil-rights violations occurred during the arrest, according to an ASU statement.

The statement issued Wednesday said that Officer Stewart Ferrin has been placed on paid administrative leave. It went on to say that it asked the FBI for its assistance although a preliminary investigation by the police department determined Ferrin “did not engage in racial profiling or use excessive force.”


The rest of that article is here, and there is video of Professor Ore relating part of what happened.

Professor Ore pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and was sentenced to probation.


“Personally I’m wondering what about me seemed to be a threat, so much so that it warranted an officer touching me and violating me,” Ore said before Superior Court Commissioner Julie Mata. “I am hurt, upset, angry and humiliated. I deal with fears on a regularly hourly basis -they wake me up at night.”

Ore said she had a moment of weakness questioning the arrest, but felt that she could no longer trust whether those in uniform were there to help or hurt her.


Ore was visibly upset following the sentencing, with Roby thanking supporters outside the courtroom on her behalf. She said she was disappointed the proposed one day of supervised probation was not granted.

“I would have liked to see that but the reality is nine months of probation—as long as someone is successful—can very easily turn into four,” Roby said. “We do believe that her constitutional civil rights were violated and we’re not going to let that go.”

Further coverage in the Phoenix New Times revealed possible consequences to the campus police department, but the department denied the personnel changes were related to this case.

Two weeks of bad publicity received by ASU was followed by the unexpected departures of ASU Police Chief John Pickens and Assistant Chief James Hardina. ASU claimed, unbelievably, that the departures had nothing to do with Ore.


With Ferrin on leave, the departures of ASU’s top brass unexplained, and the FBI investigation unfinished, you can expect to hear some more in the near future on this widely publicized case.

I have not found any more recent information.

I am posting this now because of the parallels to the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. Thankfully, Professor Ore received only minor injuries. Someone posting on a police officers’ forum said of the officer involved: ‘I’m surprised he didn’t shoot her. He probably would have somehow been within his rights.’ That post is dated July 7, 2014. I wonder whether there is any change in that perspective now. I doubt it.

I jaywalk all the time, but I’m white. If I were black, my life would be totally different. Even if I were better educated (Ersula Ore has a PhD) and better employed (I’m a bike mechanic), as a black person, I would not have the privilege of jaywalking all over the place. And that’s just a minor part of how my life would be different.

I almost posted this under ‘Culture’ instead of ‘Crime’, because it’s the culture that needs to be fixed. Police culture most urgently, but the whole culture needs to learn respect for all parts of itself. So many people claim to love America, while they hate their fellow Americans. We need to love people, not a mythological construct of a nation.

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