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Feds say UM on track with work on sexual assault reforms - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Feds say UM on track with work on sexual assault reforms

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UM President Royce Engstrom listens during Monday’s press conference in Missoula (MTN News photo) UM President Royce Engstrom listens during Monday’s press conference in Missoula (MTN News photo)
MISSOULA -

Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice are praising the City of Missoula for completing the reforms ordered to improve the handling of local sex assaults, and they also say the University of Montana is on track to complete their improvements.

Monday's press conference comes exactly two years after the DOJ had announced the agreements with UM, the city and Missoula Police in the wake of the scandal over how local authorities were handling sex assault cases.

The feds says Missoula has completed one of the four local agreements under the settlements stemming from the 2012 DOJ investigation. That leaves the outlines with UM, University Police, and the Missoula County Attorney's Office to be finished.

UM President Royce Engstrom expressed confidence the university will finish it's assignments on schedule.

"We know our deadlines and we're working hard to meet them. Our agreements focus heavily on education and training of our students, out employees and our police department," he said. "Much of that training has been done in collaboration with the Missoula Police Department. And interaction between the two has never been stronger."

Michael Cotter, the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana, explained the DOJ will continue to monitor how the local governments are doing on protecting the civil rights of sexual assault victims in the years to come. But he said once the agreements are complete, the focus will turn to the local authorities to keep momentum going.

"I think we've worked extremely well together, seamlessly, to get it right. And that has been the goal. And it is certainly attainable. And then once it's attained it will be sustained," he said.

"They've been willing to engage with us. When we have questions we've been able to go to them and get those questions answered," Engstrom said. "And likewise when they've had things they've wanted to communicate with us we've had very good dialog along the way. And I think that eliminates, or at least minimizes the opportunity for surprises."

Cotter, and the principal deputy attorney general for Civil Rights, both said they're also pleased with the cooperation and progress from the Missoula County Attorney's Office, which didn't sign a compliance agreement until last year and is running on a later timeline.

RELATED: DOJ: Missoula Police complete 1st reform agreement stemming from UM rapes

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