Department of Justice Says UM Police Department Has Fully Implemented Agreement on Response to Sexual Assaults [WATCH]
U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter announced on Friday that the University of Montana Police Department has fully implemented the agreement to improve its response to reports of sexual assault.
Cotter, speaking at the UM Alexander Blewett III School of Law, first read a statement from Vanita Gupta, Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division in which she praised the accomplishments of the UM Police Department, in that 'as a result of reforms, the women of Missoula are safer, more trusting of the criminal justice system.'
Also speaking at the press conference were University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, UM Police Chief Marty Ludemann and Missoula Mayor John Engen.
Engstrom said the agreement that was entered into just over two years ago has been successfully completed.
"We entered into the agreements with the Justice Department and Department of Education with the determination that we would improve our handling of reports of sexual assault on this campus," Engstrom said. "Today, we mark the successful, full implementation of our agreement regarding the UM Police Department."
UM Police Chief Marty Ludemann said his department has worked closely with many other departments on campus to improve response to reports of sexual assaults.
"We are a police department on a campus," Ludemann said. "We have responsibilities to investigate criminal activity like any other police department, What we are also asked to do is to create a safe learning environment for our students and a safe working environment for our staff and faculty.What this agreement has taught us is that we can't do this job by ourselves. That collaboration and cooperation are the keys to being strong and moving forward. We're trying to build a culture of safety on our campus, and we can't do that alone either. With cooperation between all departments, students and facukty, we will succeed and make a difference."
KGVO News asked the panelists what difference a victim of sexual assault on campus some eight years ago, would find if she was assaulted in 2015. President Engstrom said the primary difference would be one of overall awareness of the issue.
"Fundamentally, the difference would be a much more knowledgeable, much more caring set of people," he said. "It its core, that would be the main difference. Our reporting processes now are so much clearer, where before there was much confusion. I believe we have worked very hard to clarify that. Now, a victim of sexual assault knows how to report and knows that there is going to be a response. Our deepest hope from all of this is that we have 100 percent reporting of all sexual assaults, combined with an actual decrease in sexual assaults. With all the changes we have made, our deepest hope is that that gives confidence to victims of sexual assault that they will be listened to, that they will be cared for and there will be consequences in committing sexual assault."