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ASU professor’s guilty plea is a wasted opportunity

Cases like Dr. Ersula Ore’s are important to examine because they can create learning opportunities.

Her May 20 arrest became controversial last week after video of the incident was made public. The video shows Ore struggling with Arizona State University Police Officer Stewart Ferrin.

At first it’s just a heated conversation. Ore felt she was being harassed by the police for jaywalking but things progressed after Ferrin asked Ore her for ID. She was eventually arrested and charged with obstructing a public thoroughfare, failure to show ID, resisting arrest and aggravated assault for kicking Ferrin. Ore claims the kick was self-defense because Ferrin’s hand was too close to her backside.

The publicity from the video created a learning opportunity about police interactions. Was this cop too aggressive? If an officer is too aggressive, what’s the best way to handle it? Is there an effective way to question a police officer? All these things could have been examined and discussed based on this case alone.

Unfortunately, there will be no answers because the story has fizzled out. Ore pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest in a Mesa court on Wednesday. In exchange for her guilty plea the other charges against her were dropped. Case closed.

Now that the case is closed the outrage level will be turned down to zero. Without sustained outrage debates end permanently. That’s the new American model. Debate until the outrage ends, then move on to the next scandal.

Ore was probably anxious to put this entire incident behind her.

“Professor Ore has taken responsibility for her actions, and we ask Officer Ferrin do the same,” Ore’s attorney, Alane Roby, said.

Ferrin has been placed on paid administrative leave. He’s not back at work yet even though an ASU investigation found no wrong doing. But the FBI has been called in to determine if he violated Ore’s civil rights. Ore’s guilty plea should take the wind out the FBI’s sails.

This has now become a classic opportunity wasted. Ore was adamant that she was mistreated by the police. Instead, she’s pleaded guilty, presumably, to avoid a long, drawn out trial. The longer the fight, the more expensive it would become. Lawyer fees add up. That’s understandable.

But, by settling, Ore’s case teaches a whole different set of lessons than it could have. The first lesson here is it’s expensive to fight for what’s right. Maybe it’s better to take the easy road. The second lesson is be careful interacting with police. Questioning authority may sound fun until slammed into the hood of a cop car. From there, the law, the courts and the money are on their side. And maybe that’s the most important lesson of all. But that lesson isn’t very American, is it?