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DOJ: UM meets requirements on improving sexual assault case resp - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

DOJ: UM meets requirements on improving sexual assault case response

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(MTN News photo) (MTN News photo)
MISSOULA -

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that the University of Montana and their police department have fully met the DOJ's requirements of improving response to sexual assault cases. 

Attorneys with the DOJ praised the City of Missoula for completing the reforms ordered to improve the handling of local sex assaults back in May, saying at the time the UM was on track to complete their improvements.

The agreement, which was entered into in May 2013, resolved part of the department’s probe into how the local criminal justice system and UM responded to sexual assault complaints.

Thomas R. Tremblay, the independent reviewer who assesses whether the terms of the agreement have been met, has determined that the UMPD has met all of its obligations under the agreement and achieved the overall purpose of the agreement. 
 
The purpose of the agreement between the department and the UMPD was to better protect and vindicate the rights of sexual assault victims by transforming the UMPD’s response to reports of sexual assault, according to a news release.

The agreement required significant changes to the UMPD’s policies, practices and supervision, according to the DOJ. 

“Our agreement with the University of Montana Police Department following our investigation into the handling of sexual assault complaints made by women in Missoula has been a catalyst for powerful changes in the law enforcement, the university, and the community’s coordinated response to sexual assault,” said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division. 

“We are grateful for the efforts of the University of Montana, the UMPD and the entire Missoula community because, as a result of these reforms, the women of Missoula are safer, more trusting of the criminal justice system and subject to more fair and respectful treatment by campus police.  The University of Montana and the UMPD had the courage and leadership to acknowledge and address these problems on its campus, and as a result, they are poised to become a model for institutions of higher education and campus police departments grappling with these issues around the country.”
 
“Today signals a true accomplishment by the University of Montana and its police department,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter of the District of Montana.  “They have worked tirelessly toward changes that are substantial, sustainable, and will benefit the community for generations to come.  Thanks to this community effort, today the university is safer and is a place where students can learn and thrive.” 
 
The full implementation of the department’s agreement with the UMPD marks the second completion of the four agreements stemming from the department’s multi-pronged investigation, launched in May 2012, regarding the handling of sexual assault complaints made by women in Missoula. 

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

We will have more on this story during Friday's 5:30 News on the Montana Television Network.

- information from Don Fisher


RELATED: Feds say UM on track with work on sexual assault reforms

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


Below is the full text of the remarks (as prepared for delivery) by Cotter

Remarks as prepared for delivery
MISSOULA, MONTANA
 
Good Morning.  My name is Michael Cotter, the United States Attorney for the District of Montana.  We are pleased to announce today that the University of Montana Police Department (UMPD) has achieved full compliance with the Department of Justice agreement to improve the police department’s response to reports of sexual assault. 
               
Rape is a horribly violent crime that has immediate and devastating consequences for the victims and their loved ones.  One year ago, at the White House Task Force Protecting Students from Sexual Assault, then Deputy Attorney General James Cole said:  The majority of rapes are committed by a small number of perpetrators.  Communities struggle to investigate and adjudicate these crimes.  Sexual assaults of college students are incredibly underreported – only 2 percent of college students who suffer sexual assault while incapacitated, and 13 percent of other college students who are rape survivors, report the crime.  
The broad set of fundamental reforms that has been implemented over the last three years has dramatically improved the ability for the University of Montana, and Missoula more broadly, to protect victims of sexual assault.  These long lasting reforms provide for accountability, transparency and credibility.  The reforms call for an integrated response to sexual assault.  The collaborative response of the university and city police departments has become the model for all towns and colleges to copy. 
Thank you, President Engstrom, for the extraordinary leadership that you have shown during these last few years and for ensuring that the right thing is done for the students of the university and Montana.
When the University of Montana and Missoula came face to face with the formidable challenge of addressing the sexual assaults in the community President Engstrom, you, and Mayor John Engen, together with your respective staffs, engineered a complete overhaul of the processes and procedures employed by the Missoula law enforcement community in the handling of reports of sexual assault, the investigation of sexual assault allegations and the referral of meritorious cases to the Prosecutor’s Office for consideration and prosecutions.  Throughout, you were informed by the people of Missoula and victims.  The changes are substantial and sustainable.  Where once there were gaps, they now have been closed.
The University of Montana Police Department now has in place:
  • Standard Operating Procedure;
  • Sexual Assault Investigation Policy – consistent response methodology and investigation of sexual assault;
  • Memorandum of Understanding (10/23 revised) linking Missoula Police Department and Missoula County Sheriff’s Office with the University of Montana Police Department;
  • Law enforcement training that is trauma informed and victim centered investigation; and
  • Community engagement and feedback.
Moreover, we are gratified to note that over the last two years, the University of Montana has consistently exceeded the requirements of the agreement in many areas.  Thank you, President Engstrom and your staff, University of Montana Police Chief Marty Ludemann, and University of Montana Legal Counsel Lucy France.
        We are also encouraged by the progress that has been made by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office under the leadership of County Attorney Kirsten Pabst.  Since taking office six months ago, she has created a special sexual assault unit of four prosecutors and a supervisor, and hired an in house victim coordinator to work with victims, advocates and law enforcement. 
I want to thank the community and the advocacy groups who participated in bringing about these substantive changes.  Also, I want to thank all the courageous survivors of sexual assault who spoke out to ensure that sexual assault victims can now have confidence that law enforcement’s response is victim centered – they will be heard and not stereotyped.
Today is a day to celebrate the University of Montana and the city of Missoula.  Today, thanks to President Engstrom his staff at the University of Montana, the university is a far safer community where students are welcomed, nurtured, educated and protected, and where they can thrive with confidence that their University has their back. 
Well done and congratulations, UMPD and President Engstrom.
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