On Friday, the ACLU of Alaska received an extremely callous deflection from the City of Nome in response to the ACLU’s September 24 letter seeking justice for Clarice “Bun” Hardy. As Nome officials have done repeatedly, they have chosen to continue to deny justice for Ms. Hardy, and countless other Alaska Native sexual assault victims, by refusing to take responsibility for the Nome Police Department’s disastrous failures.

Because of the city’s blatant disregard for sexual assault victims, like Ms. Hardy, the ACLU of Alaska is forced to prepare a civil suit. The decades-long, systemic indifference to the safety of Alaska Native women in Nome must end.

It’s clear from Nome’s response letter that officials care more about protecting the city’s financial bottom-line than creating a safe community where everyone is treated equally under the law. This response letter promotes bad police work that compromises the safety of everyone and further validates our position that Alaska Native women are routinely disregarded by the criminal justice system.

The sexual assault rate in Alaska is three times the national average, and that figure is twice as high in Western communities. Alaska Native people are disproportionately victims of sexual assault, making up nearly half (46%) of victims in reported felony-level sex offense crimes statewide. Alaska Native people make up 16% of the state population.

Alaska Native women deserve more than to just be part of a terrible statistic. They deserve justice and equal protection. The Nome Police Department and the City of Nome must be held accountable.