Dispatcher blows whistle on uninvestigated rape cases
A woman who is in the employ of the Nome Police Department as a dispatcher has come forward with a first hand account of having been sexually assaulted and when she reported the rape to her colleague at NPD, nothing was done to investigate the crime.
Allegations of letting sexual assaults in Nome go uninvestigated have been repeatedly brought up by a coalition of women who have implored the Nome Common Council at several occasions to do something about it. The full extend of the allegations were not made public, but now the Alaska State Troopers have forwarded a report of a case to the District Attorney, which may be just the tip of the iceberg of cases that have not been looked into.
Clarice “Bun” Hardy, 34, told The Nome Nugget in an interview that she went out to the Breakers Bar during Iditarod time in March 2017, and after only one drink she felt dizzy and woke up at her home only clad in a t-shirt. She doesn’t remember the ride home or what happened. Apparently, a man took her to her home and a third person filmed the man sexually assaulting her while she seemed unconscious. The recording was put on Snapchat for a short period of time and friends called her to check on her after seeing the Snapchat post.
Hardy then went to NPD Lieutenant Nicholas Harvey and reported what happened to her. “He specifically walked me through a list of things that will be done and said he will look into it,” Hardy said. According to her, a couple of months went by and when she asked about the progress of the investigation, Harvey would respond that he’s still working on it, Hardy said.
Nothing happened for a year.
And then, in March 2018, Hardy answered a dispatch phone call at the police station from her rapist. She said she knew him, but did not socialize or interact with the man. But during that phone call, she wore the dispatcher hat and had to assist him in his emergency. “I had to help him,” Hardy said. After she was done helping him, she broke down and cried. “Sgt. Dickerson came in and asked why I was crying,” she said. She explained to him the situation, told him about the rape, the report and that nothing ever came of it. According to Hardy, Sgt. Dickerson said this is wrong and encouraged her to report it to the chief. “The chief had me write down a statement and said he would forward it to AST and that they would get in contact with me within a week,” Hardy said. Hardy said Chief John Papasodora talked with her and said he would hand the investigation to Alaska State Troopers to follow up. “After one meeting, Chief Papasodora came out of his office and to my desk and he made it clear to me that he is not going to fire Lt. Harvey, but said, ‘What do you want his punishment to be?’” Hardy remembered. She said it was not her place to come up with punishments but that she wanted that crimes are investigated so that justice can be done.
“March and April flew by and nothing happened again,” Hardy said.
Taking it to the Troopers
On May 7, Hardy had enough and went to the Nome post of Alaska State Troopers and asked if there was an investigation request from NPD about her case. No, there wasn’t.
City Manager Tom Moran was made aware of the report and so was the Union and the city’s HR department. Hardy requested an internal investigation.
On May 9, she was interviewed by AST Sgt. Charlie Cross and Trooper Jonnathon Stroebele.
Sgt. Cross confirmed that NPD requested AST to investigate the case and that the investigation was handed to the DA’s office. He declined to comment any further on the matter.
Saying that she couldn’t bear to work at the police station any longer because it was such a hostile work environment, Hardy has been on administrative leave since the end of May.
Hardy had worked at NPD as a dispatcher since 2015.
“I took all the proper steps,” Hardy said. “But I am done being quiet. I was quiet for one year and I’m speaking out because it’s the right thing to do.”
During a recent townhall meeting held on August 18, held to discuss how to work towards a solution for NPD to regain trust within the community, only one council member, Jerald Brown, showed up, the city clerk and NPD’s Sgt. Dickerson and Sgt. Harvey in addition to a host of women and community members who wanted to have a meaningful conversation. Hardy was there, too. And she talked about what happened to her. She also recognized ladies in the room, who have called 911 when she was a dispatcher to report a sexual assault and their cases were not investigated either. Hardy said that she knew right of the top off her head of five other sexual assaults within the past year that have not been investigated.
Harvey, who has since been demoted from Lieutenant to the rank of Sergeant, did not respond by the deadline to a request for comment.
On August 29, the City of Nome issued a Public Service Announcement that addressed several issues that seemed out of context to the broader Nome public that was not yet familiar with the details of Bun Hardy’s case. It said that on May 7 “the City of Nome was made aware of several citizen allegations regarding the Nome Police Department’s (NPD) handling of certain cases.”
The public service announcement further stated that the Common Council by resolution has directed that action be undertaken to address those claims. The announcement said that “certain matters” were referred to the Alaska State Troopers, that a thorough review of case reports was done to identify areas where improvements were needed, that a consultation was done with an Alaska Dept. of Public Safety expert on domestic violence and sexual assault, and that “disciplinary action in accordance with the City’s policies for employee discipline” were taken. These statements did not provide context, but the context became clear when on Monday the Anchorage Daily News published a story titled “911 dispatcher: I was raped and Nome police colleagues ignored the case.”
In an email to City Manager Tom Moran with the request to explain the cryptic public service announcement, Moran responded that he assumed this reporter “would understand our inability to discuss personnel files and instances heading to litigation, but the fact of the matter is that the situation at NPD has been coming to a head for almost four months.”
He wrote that the “issues are interconnected at some level, even if they appear distinct to the outside observer. Similarly, these issues began being addressed behind-the-scenes in May.”
“I’m sorry if it’s no solace, but the citizens of Nome will have an entirely new administration in place to take this organization in a new direction on October 1,” he wrote. “Personnel actions have been underway and will continue to take place. A new organizational chart is being created, edits to the OPM are happening, and a new platform for policing in general is being adopted. Also, the budget is being reallocated to provide for more overtime and training instead of for ancillary line items.”
When asked for the reason that Chief Papasodora resigned, Moran responded that now was the right time. “His contract was written nine years ago with this end date, so it’s no crazy conspiracy. John is as disheartened as anyone about the state of affairs, but they were not his making.
“We were both remiss in ensuring that day-to-day tasks were being done, and we both take accountability for that,” Moran wrote.
Another source confirmed that Papasodora had told his department a year ago that he plans to retire in the fall of 2018.
Hardy in the meantime hopes that there will be resolution and an end to the inaction in terms of investigating cases. She was diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress syndrome, not only from the rape but also from having been re-victimized by her colleagues and the inaction of a police department that is charged with enforcing the law in Nome. She said life had been hard and that at times she locks herself in the room and doesn’t want to leave the house. She said her trust in the department is so badly eroded that she cannot imagine going back there to work. “I wish I could, but I don’t think I can ever go back,” she said.
In a further erosion of public trust, Hardy’s absence has caused a shortage of staff, which was filled by Carl Putman, a former NPD community service officer who recently had been fired from the police force and pleaded no contest in court after having punched a passed-out woman in the face while on duty. City officials said in order to ensure continued dispatch service, Putman was temporarily hired because he knew the dispatch system and could immediately take over shifts.
Nome District Attorney John Earthman confirmed that he received material from the Alaska State Troopers’ investigation into Bun Hardy’s case. He said that the case is under active review, additional investigation may yet have to be done and based on that, a decision to file or not file charges is pending at this time.