U.S. Attorney Settles on MPD's Handling of Sexual Assault - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

U.S. Attorney Settles on MPD's Handling of Sexual Assault

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The U.S. Attorney's office will hold a conference call with Missoula City officials Wednesday, about their comprehensive settlement agreement to reform the Missoula Police Department's response to sexual assaults.

Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy L. Austin, Jr., Missoula Mayor John Engen, and Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir will participate in a conference call.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the completion of their investigation of The University of Montana's handling of sexual assaults. To learn more about that investigation, click here.

Federal officials continue to investigate the Missoula County Attorney's office, and they say they have had little cooperation from the County Attorney. Fred Van Valkenburg says the federal government does not have the right to investigate his office.


On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's office held a conference call with Missoula City officials, announcing their comprehensive settlement agreement to reform the Missoula Police Department's response to sexual assaults.

Over their year-long investigation, federal officials said they discovered alleged victims felt they were not taken seriously by Missoula Police officers, and there was an overall lack of communication during sexual assault investigations.

Now, police officials said they're hiring on new professionals to revamp officers' training on handling sexual violence, and even remodeling their interview rooms to ensure victims will feel safe when making reports to Missoula law enforcement.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Roy Austin Jr. said MPD officers made statements to women reporting rapes about how their accusations could affect the lives of the accused.

"Again, making the victim feel as though she was in fact doing something wrong," Austin said.

Austin said police officers also failed to properly communicate with university law enforcement agents and the county attorney's office when they received a report of sexual assault.

"Missoula Police officers, including myself, are not perfect, and we can do better, and so far in our review, it seems communication with victims of sexual violence was a weak point for us," said Police Chief Mark Muir.

Muir said they're reviewing their policy on handling sexual assaults and previous MPD investigations.

He and Mayor John Engen said city departments will increase communication overall, especially, when it comes to speaking with alleged victims.

Engen added, "That her investigation is a priority for us, that her needs and desires are important as a function of the investigation."

The mayor said the city, the police department and the university are hiring an "independent monitor" who will do compliance checks over the next two years.

"This agreement acknowledges that we're not perfect, but also gives us I think a clear path toward getting better, and that's really all we ever wanted to do," Engen said.

Muir said they're remodeling their two currently inadequate interview rooms to create a more safe and comfortable environment for reporters of sexual assault.

"Our officers want to be the best, and today's agreement only affirms their conviction and duty to do so," he said.

This announcement comes nearly one week after the DOJ completed their investigation of The University of Montana's handling of sexual assaults, which had similar results.

Federal officials continue to investigate the County Attorney and his office, who says the federal government does not have the right to investigate their office.

City officials said they will pay the "independent monitor" and other new professional hires with funds from within their own departments.

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