Arizona State University police officer Stewart Ferrin was supposed to be fired this week. The ASU police chief has placed him back on indefinite administrative leave pending further review.
Ferrin arrested ASU professor Dr. Ersula Ore in May 2014 for traffic and criminal charges, including assaulting a police officer. Ore admitted to kicking Ferrin. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery brought formal criminal charges against her, and she pleaded guilty to the resisting arrest and was sentenced to nine months supervised probation.
Ferrin’s actions were examined at the time of the incident by the university and ASU police officials and deemed appropriate.
Soon after her arrest Ore and her backers played the “race” and “victim” cards. That took the spotlight off of her crimes and breaking a serious university rule regarding assaulting a fellow employee. Ferrin is white; Ore is black.
Assaulting a fellow employee is a serious offense that can result in termination. Employers can’t have a person with a history of violent and assaultive behavior against a fellow employee without taking on considerable legal liability.
In a matter of weeks Ferrin went from being a cop on the night shift in Tempe’s notorious and dangerous “Loud Party Corridor” to being the white cop who attacked a black professor. The obvious implication was Ferrin is a racist.
Ferrin was suspended. Soon after Ferrin was benched, the university provost, one of ASU’s chief executives, sent an email to ASU employees praising Ore and aiming guilt at Ferrin.
The university administration ordered yet another investigation into Ferrin’s conduct. This time it was conducted by a private investigator chosen by the university administration instead of asking for an outside and independent investigation by another police or prosecutorial agency. The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Special Investigations Unit normally investigates internal police investigations with a high profile, but ASU chose not to go that route.
Police officers are bound by state statute to conduct an independent, complete and impartial investigation or subject themselves to prosecution and revocation of their peace officer certification; private investigators aren’t. Even with Ore’s guilty plea to criminal conduct, she’s kept her job teaching our kids.
When I made a public records request for the personnel files for Ferrin and Ore, I was provided with Ferrin’s 47-page file. Ore’s information was a redacted one-pager that gave me her name and not much more. Why give me everything on one employee and not give me everything on the other employee?
Ferrin’s file revealed he consistently met standards, satisfactorily completed his probation period and was rewarded for his service.
When faced with a possible felony conviction, Ore made a plea agreement. Ferrin has refused resign under pressure and maintains his innocence.
If ASU eventually decides to fire Ferrin it will leave a permanent scar and a lingering stench on the reputation of Arizona State University and its police department.
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.