CLEVELAND — Case Western Reserve University today issued a statement in support of Ayesha Bell Hardaway, the professor who says she felt forced to resign from her role as a member of the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team after the Department of Justice and City of Cleveland questioned her objectivity following remarks she made on a radio show in April in which she discussed Derek Chauvin and George Floyd.
"As a leading institution of higher education, Case Western Reserve values the free exchange of ideas as essential to learning and discovery. Indeed, our nation’s founders considered the concept so critical that they included freedom of speech in the Constitution’s first amendment. Yet Professor Hardaway’s on-air mention of systemic racial issues in American policing provoked such consternation that she no longer serves on a commission designed to ensure public accountability," CWRU stated.
The university said it was "deeply disturbed" that she felt forced to resign and called the situation disappointing.
"This outcome is disappointing for many reasons, not least of which is the treatment of Professor Hardaway after six years of dedicated service on the monitoring team. Even more worrisome, however, is the signal sent regarding a body that ostensibly exists to serve the public interest. The group no longer will benefit from Professor Hardaway’s considerable expertise as a legal scholar, seasoned litigator, and former Cuyahoga County prosecutor. Going forward, other monitoring team members with concerns may not air them because of fear they, too, might be ousted," CWRU stated.
According to Hardaway's resignation letter, she resigned due to an attack on her reputation and the shrinking of her role on the team.
"Unsupported assertions that seek to malign my professional reputation is not something that I am willing to passively endure. Any acquiescence on my part to limit my engagement on the Monitoring Team to community issues that do not involve assessing compliance would give these baseless attacks on my professional objectivity unmerited credence," Hardaway wrote.
She continued, "As difficult as it is to walk away from the work that means so much to me and many within the Cleveland community, the ultimatum as presented leaves me without any other option."
You can read Hardaway's resignation letter here.
According to the university, Hardaway's broad comments "reportedly stirred anxiety about her objectivity in fulfilling her role" as a member of the monitoring team. She didn't mention her role on the team, Cleveland or the city's consent decree while on the program, CWRU said.
"I recognize that it is a tall order for some to accept the reality that violence exists in American policing and that systemic change is needed in order to address the longstanding and disproportionate impact that excessive use of force by police has had on Black people. However, the work of police reform is rooted in some of these hard truths. For such conversations to still be a source of contention in this space is both surprising and reaffirms why reform and systemic change remain critically necessary. I have always been committed to honest dialogue – whether in my research, on the air, in community, or during our more formal meetings," Hardaway wrote.
Following the radio show, Hardaway said she was willing to meet with the individuals who were troubled by what she said.
"I have remained open to feedback, critique, and conversation regarding how my comments were received by you or anyone with whom we work. After all, the NPR interview was part of a live broadcast during which I responded to questions and comments from the host, other guests, and call-in listeners," Hardaway wrote. "I understand that my responses during the fast-paced radio show raised concern amongst some of the people that you’ve spoken to. To proactively address this articulated concern, I even suggested setting up a meeting for the expressed purpose of facilitating clarity and understanding. This offer was rebuffed."
The co-chair of the Cleveland Community Police Commission, Lewis Katz, issued a personal statement Monday regarding Hardaway. He said his view does not represent an organizational position.
"Professor Hardaway was forced out because she made comments following the conviction of Officer Chauvin that any non-racist would have made. The absence of Professor Hardaway from the Monitor team during the period of compliance testing is disasterous. She is the only member of the team who knows Cleveland and its historic systemic racism, knows the five year history of the Consent Decree, and knows constitutional policing law. In other words the job cannot be done without her, and she should be asked to rejoin the Monitor team."
In April, just after Chauvin was convicted, Hardaway talked to News 5 about the trial.
“You heard them say in closings, ‘This isn't about policing. This isn’t anti-police. This is about one bad person.’ The problem with that narrative is that it completely ignores the systemic issues that exist within policing,” Hardaway said. “There was a chance that because Mr. Floyd was Black and that this was a white police officer, that he could go unpunished and be found not guilty. That created some nervous energy.”
The trial, Hardaway said, prompted people to ask questions about policing.
"The onus has to be on our elected and appointed officials to do the things that they are put into office to do. It cannot be on the backs of Black people who are traumatized," she said.
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