CLEVELAND — Editor's Note: The above video is from a previously published story
Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) has responded after Ayesha Bell-Hardaway, director of the Social Justice Law Center at CWRU, resigned from her role as a deputy monitor on the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team after she claims her objectivity was questioned as a member of the task force.
In a resignation letter obtained by 3News, Bell-Hardaway says that Cleveland Police Monitoring Team Monitor, Hassan Aden, threatened to remove her in her role as a deputy monitor following an interview given with Cleveland's NPR affiliate following the verdict made in the Derrick Chauvin murder Trial.
The former deputy monitor claims in the resignation letter that Aden gave her only two options following her interview, stating that she would either need to restrict her role to only community-related matters, or remove her from the team, entirely.
"We are deeply disturbed that a member of Case Western Reserve’s faculty felt forced to resign from the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team because of comments she made on a local radio show regarding the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd," CWRU wrote in its statement that was released on Monday.
"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."
Bell-Hardaway says that her responses in the NPR interview in question reflect "capsulized information about American policing that is well-supported in existing literature," rather than bias.
"My responses during the interview were made in my role as a law professor and researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Law," Bell-Hardaway says. "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," Bell-Hardaway writes.
"In her letter of resignation, Professor Hardaway accurately noted that she never mentioned Cleveland, the consent decree or her position as deputy monitor during the broadcast. Nor did cite the U.S. Department of Justice findings that led to the decree and monitoring commission," CWRU added.
Furthermore, the CWRU professor says that the Monitoring Team's response to her answers given in the NPR interview "reaffirms why reform and systematic change remain critically necessary," stating that the fact that that conversations on police reform being a topic of contention is "surprising."
"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," Bell-Hardaway writes. "However, the work of police reform is rooted in some of these hard truths."
"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."
In its statement, CWRU closed by writing, "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."
The Cleveland Police Monitoring team, according to its website, was formed in 2015 after a Consent Decree was agreed upon by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Cleveland Division of Police following a 2014 investigation that found Cleveland police officials had violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law while engaging in certain police practices.
According to the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team's website, the task force is, "charged with overseeing implementation of the Consent Decree and helping the Court and City of Cleveland gauge whether the Decree's requirements are taking hold in practice – in the real world and across Cleveland's communities."
3News reached out to Aden and the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team for comment but did not receive a statement at the time of publication.
You can read the entire statement from CWRU below: