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Ayesha Bell Hardaway Forced Out Of Cleveland Police Monitoring Team

Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and director of the criminal clinic in the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic, has been part of the Cleveland police consent decree monitoring team since the agreement was put in place in 2015 and a deputy monitor since 2019. [CWRU]
Ayesha Bell Hardaway is an Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the Director of the Criminal Clinic in the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic.

Updated: 5:26 p.m., Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Cleveland’s police monitor, Hassan Aden, has forced the departure of Case Western Reserve University law professor Ayesha Bell Hardaway from her position as one of two deputy monitors.

Hardaway was involved in reviewing new policies created by Cleveland police to comply with the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree. She had a role in recommending changes before those policies and trainings went in front of U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver for final approval.

Hardaway joined the monitoring team in 2015 and was made deputy monitor when Aden took over from the original monitor, Matthew Barge, in 2019.

Without Hardaway in that position, there are no local, Black experts overseeing compliance with the federal consent decree. Charles See and Timothy Tramble remain on the monitoring team, but their focus is on engaging with the public, not compliance.

“It’s a huge loss,” Black Lives Matter Cleveland co-founder Kareem Henton said. “Prof. Hardaway has been the one that has really been fighting hard to keep them on task.”

Henton said Hardaway’s departure reinforces the impression among community activists that opponents of the consent decree are seeking to derail the process. Placing someone new in Hardaway’s role will be seen as a victory for those opponents, he said.

“It just gives the city and law enforcement a very unfair advantage. And it’s obvious it’s a part of the overall campaign to avoid accountability,” Henton said.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s highest ranking official in Northeast Ohio echoed Henton.

On Wednesday, the Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Breenan released a statement describing Hardaway as an integral part of the police reform process in Cleveland.

“Her presence on the Monitoring Team facilitated the progress and successes we have seen to date, and we were disappointed to learn of her resignation,” Brennan said.

Pressure on the 2015 consent decree is coming from multiple fronts in the final year before the city may seek to end it. Cleveland Community Police Commission Co-chairman Lewis Katz said Tuesday that Hardaway’s departure will slow down a process that already has problems.

“And losing her will make it worse,” Katz said. “She was their expert on Fourth Amendment issues such as racial profiling, use of force and other areas affected by constitutional criminal law.”

Neither the monitoring team nor the city of Cleveland responded to Ideastream Public Media’s requests for comment.

In a letter Hardaway sent to Aden Monday, which was obtained by Ideastream, she lays out the events that led to her departure.

Following her April appearance on Ideastream’s “Sound of Ideas” radio program, where the topic was the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis and police reform nationwide, Cleveland officials raised questions about Hardaway’s objectivity.

Hardaway told Ideastream Tuesday that her comments on “Sound of Ideas” were focused on the need for reform in American policing, not Cleveland police or her work with the monitoring team in Cleveland.

“And the fact that that somehow makes me unqualified, despite all my other qualifications, to be involved in this work really concerns me about the level of fidelity and rigor that this process is going to go under moving forward,” Hardaway said.

After the concerns were brought to her in May, Hardaway sought a meeting with city officials. Her request was denied by the monitor.

In the letter, Hardaway said Aden instead gave her two options: leave the monitoring team or move into a role focused on community engagement, with no involvement in assessing the city’s compliance with the consent decree.

Hardaway chose to leave.

“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 to Aden. “You and I both understand that removing me from the substantive compliance work of this project is, in fact, removing me from the team.”

Hardaway said she was first made aware of the concerns about her objectivity in May, but there’s been “hostility” from the city since she was appointed deputy monitor in 2019.

“From Greg White [consent decree coordinator] with the city of Cleveland, to be specific,” Hardaway told Ideastream Tuesday. White called her shortly after she was made deputy monitor, “and said, ‘I want to tell you to your face what I’ve been saying behind your back. You’re too much of an advocate for the community and the [ Cleveland Community Police Commission]. I don’t think you should be in this role.’”

White did not respond to a request for comment for this story about his views on Hardaway.

In addition to Hardaway’s forced departure, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association earlier this month publicly called for an end to the consent decree. The union also called for the dismissal of Public Safety Director Karrie Howard after he handed down a series of disciplinary actions.

Howard was named safety director following the monitor’s criticism of lax disciplinary actions taken by his predecessor, Michael McGrath, in a court filing.

But Hardaway said the time is not right to end the consent decree.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“There’s no inspector general in place. There’s questions around the integrity or the ability of the internal affairs division to do what it needs to do, as required by the consent decree,” Hardaway said, adding the monitor also still has to assess the city’s community engagement and evaluate the department’s use of force review process.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.