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City of Nome pays $750K settlement and apologizes to woman after police mishandled her 2017 rape case

Front Street in Nome, Alaska in January 2017.
Zachariah Hughes
Alaska Public Media
Front Street in Nome, Alaska in January 2017.

The city of Nome has settled a lawsuit with a former police dispatcher after officers mishandled her sexual assault report, her attorneys announced.

In March 2017, Clarice “Bun” Hardy, an Iñupiaq woman, reported to the Nome Police Department that she’d been sexually assaulted. Lawyers for Hardy say the Nome Police Department took more than a year to investigate Hardy’s report. A year and a half after her report, her alleged assailant had not been charged.

In 2020, Hardy sued the city of Nome and two police officials, alleging they mishandled her rape accusation. Hardy says her case represented more people than herself.

“I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one Nome Police Department disregarded,” Hardy said. “Hundreds of other people were ignored, too.”

The hundreds of cases she mentions were actual cold cases that were backlogged in the Nome Police Department, many of which were sexual assaults reported by Alaska Native women. Hardy was represented by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.

As part of the settlement, the city of Nome paid Hardy $750,000 and issued an apology.

“The NPD’s failure to respond, as it should have, caused Ms. Hardy to suffer unnecessarily, and we are deeply sorry,” city officials wrote in the settlement.

Hardy thanked advocates, community members and attorneys who brought attention to her case.

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

Both the police officer who handled Hardy’s case as well as the department’s chief at the time have since resigned from the Nome Police Department. According to Hardy’s attorneys, in the years since she filed suit against the city, the Nome Police Department has largely reduced its backlog of cold cases.