The City of Nome and two of its former law enforcement officials are being sued in federal court for allegedly failing to investigate the rape of a former Nome Police Dispatcher.
This morning the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska (ACLU) filed suit against Nome, former Nome Police Chief John Papasadora, and former Lieutenant Nicholas Harvey on behalf of former NPD dispatcher Clarice “Bun” Hardy. In 2017, Hardy reported her sexual assault to then Lieutenant Nick Harvey who allegedly never investigated the case. ACLU Executive Director Joshua Decker describes Ms. Hardy’s case as part of a, “systemic bias against Alaska Native women.”
“Men who took an oath to protect and serve all the citizens of Nome who refused to do so when called upon by their colleague because of her race.”
Hardy said she heard nothing about the investigation from NPD, so she turned to the chief at the time, Papasadora, who said he would forward her case to the Alaska State Troopers. But in May of 2018, she said AST had received no such report. Hardy says she left Nome in December 2018, due to the trauma of the event and how her dealings with the department made her feel unsafe.
“I miss playing basketball. I miss leaving my curtains open. I miss restful night’s sleep. I pray a lot. I remind myself that I am here for a reason.”
The case is being filed in federal court by the ACLU of Alaska, the ACLU Racial Justice Program, and Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Monkman, LLP: a national law firm dedicated to Native American legal interests. In their complaint they say they want Hardy’s case to be heard in court. Kendri Cesar is a partner in that firm, and addressed the press at a conference this morning.
“And as we proceed with our case, we will be seeking to learn through the discovery process just how deep and systemic these cases go. Our case is filed in federal court in Nome and we have asked for a jury trial to be held there. Ms. Hardy and all the other women on whose behalf this lawsuit is filed deserve to have a jury in their community hear the claims and determine the outcome.”
The complaint alleges that in failing to investigate Hardy’s reports, NPD and Nome failed to provide Hardy equal protection under the fourteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Hardy is the only plaintiff listed on the complaint at this time, but the ACLU believes her case is not isolated. Hardy says that since she went public with her experience, others have reached out to her.
“Girls and men tell me of their stories. Stories like mine. It reminds me that no matter how bad my trauma is or how real my depression, that I have a voice for a reason. I can’t undue the harm done the hundreds of women the Nome Police department has failed to help but maybe I can stop this from happening again.”
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money for damages, a call for an end to alleged discriminatory practices in Nome Police’s law enforcement services, and for adequate training in thoroughly investigating all cases, regardless of race or gender.
Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman said he will not comment on any litigation, saying that is the responsibility of the City’s lawyers.
The ACLU sent out a press release at around 9:30 this morning. As of 11 o’clock this morning Steckman said he had not seen any press release or been served any legal papers and could not comment on the matter further.
Image at top: The entrance to the Nome court house. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.