In 2017, Clarice Hardy, then a Nome Police dispatcher, reported to police that she was sexually assaulted in her apartment. The morning after the assault, she learned of a video of the incident circulating on social media. Even with her close connection to the Nome Police Department, Hardy was unable to get them to actively investigate her report.
Hardy’s story is unfortunately one that had become far too common for Native women in Nome. That is why over the last year, a group of Native women raised their voice to demand change. Some even ran for local office.
As a result of that activism, Monday night the Nome City Council voted unanimously to pass Ordinance O-19-02-02 (S) — creating a public safety advisory commission that is the first-of-its-kind in Alaska. Unlike other similarly titled local boards around the state, this commission can provide real civilian oversight and accountability to local police by:
- Collecting and reviewing complaints about police department or individual officer misconduct
- Receiving access to police department records as needed
- Reviewing police reports and statistics
- Making recommendations to the city council for changes to police policies, procedures, and programs.
“This is what leadership and good government look like,” said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua A. Decker. He continued, “Mayor Beneville, the city council, and city manager all listened to their constituents, faced up to an uncomfortable truth, and acted to provide the transparency and accountability that was badly needed. This is how American government is supposed to work.”
The ACLU of Alaska worked with community members, elected officials, and city staff to create a commission that best serves the needs of Nome residents. Among the ACLU of Alaska’s recommendations reflected in the final ordinance are:
- Removing police chief and city manager from the commission
- Creating a process for the commission to access to police records
- Enabling the commission to receive citizen complaints against the Nome Police Department
- Requiring public safety statistics/reports to be disaggregated by race and gender
- Requiring the mayor to consider race and gender in appointing commission members
- Requiring the mayor to consider relevant past experience (with law enforcement, victims’ services/advocacy, etc.) in appointing commission members
- Providing commission members appropriate training
- Enabling the commission to review completed investigations of police misconduct
- Creating staggered terms for members
- Ensuring a quorum comprises a majority of members