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ACLU is Prepared to Sue the City of Nome for Potentially Mishandling a Reported Rape

Close-up of a white Nome Police Department vehicle.
A Nome Police Department vehicle. Photo: KNOM file, Matthew F. Smith.

This morning, the American Civil Liberties Union submitted an offer of settlement to the City of Nome, but is prepared to sue if the City does not accept.  In a letter to city officials, the ACLU alleges that the Nome police failed to properly handle the reported rape of former Nome Police dispatcher Clarice “Bun” Hardy in 2017.

KNOM’s Emily Hofstaedter reports:

The ACLU says Ms. Hardy is willing to settle her claims against the city for half a million dollars in order to avoid ongoing litigation.

The news was released to Nome city officials this morning at nine o’clock in an e-mail and letter, stating that the ACLU is prepared to file a civil action against NPD and the City of Nome for Ms. Hardy’s losses and potentially other Alaska Native women. The letter says that due to medication she takes for trauma and her inability to feel safe after the reported assault was mishandled, Ms. Hardy has limited job prospects.

Hardy has been public about being sexually assaulted in March of 2017. Part of that encounter was allegedly recorded on Snapchat and viewed by Hardy and several friends. She says she immediately made a written report to her then colleague, Lieutenant Nick Harvey.

“I followed up and every time I got the same answer: I’m still working on it, Bun.”

That’s Hardy speaking with KNOM earlier this year about the incident. She says that after a year of hearing nothing from Lieutenant Harvey she went to former Nome police Chief John Papasadora, who she says didn’t know about the case. After she re-filed her report, Papasadora allegedly told her that he would send her case to the Alaska State Troopers. Hardy says months later when she called to ask about her report’s status, AST had nothing on file.

According to the ACLU’s letter, by the time the Troopers conducted an investigation, they were unable to get ahold of the Snapchat evidence. The ACLU claims that Lieutenant Harvey’s failure to do a thorough investigation has resulted in “the loss of corroborative, objective evidence of Ms. Hardy’s allegations.”

“That’s the reason I left Nome. It’s because I really didn’t feel safe.”

Interim City Manager John Handeland confirmed that he did receive the ACLU’s demands. His response by e-mail late Tuesday morning said, “the City’s efforts to improve community policing, and sexual assault investigations in particular, have been well publicized. The City continues to welcome public input on this process, but will not comment on any particular matter or investigation.” 

Chief Papasadora left the department at the expiration of his contract in October 2018 and Lieutenant Harvey resigned earlier this year after being put on administrative leave. Harvey did not give a public reason for his resignation and did not respond to KNOM’s requests for interview earlier this year.

Current Nome Police Chief Bob Estes does not answer questions about Hardy’s case but told KNOM by e-mail in May that her report and questions were being handled by the District Attorney and the Alaska State Troopers.

Since then, the Nome Police Department has been doing an audit of old sexual assault cases. Last night, Chief Estes updated the City Council on some of their discoveries.

“We made that assessment. There is a problem in case-management. There is a problem in follow-up. A problem in lack of personnel, a problem in training, it is a multi-faceted area that we’re having with the NPD.”

Chief Estes says the department has reviewed 460 sexual assault cases as of this month. 70 of those were sent to the District Attorney for further review and approximately 20 of those were returned to the Nome Police for further investigation. Those numbers refer to historical “cold cases” and do not include any active sexual cases from 2019.

Megan Edge, the Communications Director for ACLU Alaska, says that Hardy was not just traumatized by the assault but re-traumatized by her experience with the Nome Police. Edge says Hardy deserves justice and compensation, but for the ACLU, this is about more than justice for Clarice Hardy. 

“We are also really hoping, and striving, to ensure that all Alaska Native people, and Alaska Native women, are ensured their equal rights as protected and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and Alaska.”

The ACLU has given the City until October 11th to accept the offer of settlement with Clarice Hardy.  

Image at top: A stock photo of Nome Police Department vehicle. NPD has been named, along with the City of Nome, in the ACLU’s recently announced claims on behalf of Clarice “Bun” Hardy. Photo: KNOM file, Matthew F. Smith.

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