Justice News

U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter of the District of Montana Delivers Remarks on the University of Montana Police Department's Full Compliance with Agreement to Improve Response to Reports of Sexual Assault
Missoula, MT
United States
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Friday, July 10, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery

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.

Updated July 10, 2015