Rural Alaska

Ex-911 dispatcher settles with city of Nome after officers failed to investigate her rape

A former police dispatcher in the Bering Sea coastal community of Nome has settled with the city after officers failed to investigate her report of being sexually assaulted, her legal team said Tuesday.

Under terms of the agreement, Clarice “Bun” Hardy, an Alaska Native woman now living in Shaktoolik, will drop her lawsuit in exchange for $750,000 and an apology from the city, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska said.

“The Mayor and Common Council wish to apologize to Clarice ‘Bun’ Hardy for the fact that the Nome Police Department in 2017 and 2018 failed to adequately and properly investigate her complaint of sexual assault,” the apology as presented in the settlement states.

“We hope that today’s settlement provides Ms. Hardy with some measure of comfort and resources to help her regain her strength,” it says, adding that steps have been taken to make sure a situation like this doesn’t happen again.

During a teleconference Tuesday, Hardy credited activists in Nome who gave her courage, saying “that apology is for all of us.”

“They knew the criminal justice system was not just or fair to women, Indigenous people and sexual assault survivors, so they demanded changes,” she said. “They empowered me to share this story and to use my voice.”

[From 2018: 911 dispatcher: I was raped and Nome police colleagues ignored the case]

The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Hardy has done.

According to her lawsuit, Hardy was sexually assaulted by a man she met at a bar and who accompanied her home. She did not remember leaving the bar and believes she was drugged.

Hardy heard from friends the next day that the aftermath of the assault had been filmed and posted on Snapchat. The man’s girlfriend apparently tracked him to Hardy’s apartment. She had a friend use a phone to record as she confronted him while Hardy remained motionless and unresponsive on the bed.

Shortly after, Hardy reported the assault to Lt. Nicholas Harvey.

The lawsuit claimed Hardy periodically checked with Harvey on the status of her report for a year before another officer heard about it and brought police Chief John Papasodora into the conversation. He said he would turn over the case to the Alaska State Troopers to investigate her complaint and why Harvey took no action on her report, the lawsuit says.

Two months later, Hardy contacted Alaska State Troopers to get a status report on her complaint and was told they had no record of such a complaint.

She eventually left the department and filed the lawsuit against the city, Harvey and Papasodora in February 2020.

Harvey declined comment when contacted Tuesday by the AP. A message left at a listing for Papasodora was not immediately returned.

Hardy claimed in her suit that the city’s failure to properly investigate was part of its systemic failure to protect Alaska Native women from sexual abuse and assault.

[From 2019: Native women in Nome say police ignored rapes or failed to thoroughly investigate them]

Robert Estes replaced Papasodora as chief in 2018. He conducted an audit and found that 76 of the 182 reports of sexual assault made to Nome police between 2015 and 2018 were not adequately investigated. Of those, over 90% were filed by Alaska Native women.

“We’ve known that we were fighting to vindicate the rights of so many others as well, whose harm was perpetuated by a broken criminal justice system in Nome. But through this process, we’ve also learned that change is possible and changes have been made,” said Stephen Koteff, the legal director for the ACLU of Alaska.

He said the group has verified that Nome has cleared its backlog of cold case sexual assault reports.

Hardy also expressed appreciation to her nieces and nephews, who she said fueled her fire to endure the last five years.

“It’s been a long, painful journey today, but I’m healing and trying to move forward,” Hardy said.

Mark Thiessen, Associated Press

Mark Thiessen is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Anchorage.

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