TEMPE, Ariz. — 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.
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.”
In a dashboard camera recording released Friday, Ore steadfastly questions officer Stewart Ferrin and asks him to be respectful.
The two talk over each other as the situation escalates, with Ferrin threatening to arrest Ore unless she produces her ID.
“If you don’t understand the law, I’m explaining the law to you,” the officer says. “The reason I’m talking to you right now is because you are walking in the middle of the street.”
Ore explains that she walked in the street to avoid construction.
“I never once saw a single solitary individual get pulled over by a cop for walking across a street on a campus, in a campus location,” she says.
The explanation does not satisfy, and Ferrin begins to cuff the professor.
“Don’t touch me,” Ore says, her voice beginning to rise. “Get your hands off me.”
The officer warns her to put her hands behind her back, or “I’m going to slam you” on the police car.
“You really want to do that?” Ore asks. “Do you see what I’m wearing?”
Ferrin responds, “I don’t care what you’re wearing.” She kicks the officer.
Shortly, Ore is on the ground. Her lawyer, Alane M. Roby, says the action caused her dress to ride up, “exposing her anatomy to all onlookers.”
Ore faces charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, failing to provide ID and obstructing a public thoroughfare. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
The university said it found “no evidence of inappropriate actions by the ASUPD officers involved.”
Given the “underlying criminal charges,” the university declined to provide any more details.
Ore said the incident started when the officer stopped his car next to her and asked whether she knew the difference between a road and a sidewalk.
She said she asked him, “Do you always accost women in the middle of the road and speak to them with such disrespect and so rudely as you did to me?”
She said that at no point did he ask her name or tell her why she was being questioned.
“He throws the car door open actually, is what happens, and he’s towering over me,” she said. “He’s intimidating. I don’t know why he’s so aggressive.”
Roby said they’ll fight the charges and accused the officer of escalating the situation in violation of his training.
“Professor Ore’s one crime that evening was to demand respect that she deserves as a productive, educated and tax paying member of society,” Roby said in a statement, adding that they maintain any actions Ore took were in self-defense.
That includes the caught-on-camera kick she delivered to the officer’s shin.
“She can clearly be heard on the dash can video instructing the officer not to grab toward her genital area prior to him reaching for her in attempt to pull her skirt down over her exposed private area,” Roby wrote.
The incident has made headlines as far away as Iran and England. Closer to home, her department at the university has asked for a thorough investigation, including “an audit on the conduct of its police force vis-a-vis racial profiling.”
The university said it has completed one investigation. If evidence of officer wrongdoing surfaces, it said, an additional inquiry will be conducted and appropriate measures taken.