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Deficiencies in Policy, Training, and Practice Found in The University of Montana Sexual Assault Investigation by the Department of Justice

Department of Justice Meeting
Photo courtesy of Peter Christian

Today, May 9, the Department of Justice finally revealed what it found during its more than year-long sexual assault investigation into The University of Montana.

The following statement was released in a press hearing led by U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy Austin Jr.

The civil rights division has concluded its investigation of the allegations that The University of Montana’s Office of Public Safety discriminates against women in its response to sexual assault. The investigation found that the office of public safety’s response to sexual assaults is compromised by deficiencies in policy, training and practice. These deficiencies make it more difficult for law enforcement to effectively investigate allegations of sexual assault and had the effect of depriving female sexual assault victims of basic legal protections and reduced the ability of the Office of Public Safety to protect the public safety of the entire campus.

Findings Letter by the Department of Justice

During the public statement, Austin was tremendously complimentary to efforts by University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and the university overall. Austin specifically praised the PETSA sexual assault awareness test that all UM students are required to take.

Another item of praise was the creation of a new position given to Casey Gunter, who now works in the Office of Public Safety for UM, and is tasked with dealing with sexual assaults specifically.

Full Agreement Between University of Montana and Department of Justice Regarding Sexual Assault Response

An agreement was reached between The University of Montana and the Department of Justice (see document above) that will lead to an end of the investigation if fulfilled. Progress on the agreement will be monitored over the next three years by an independent monitor, who will not be affiliated with the Department of Justice or The University of Montana. So far, the monitor has not been named.

The investigation by the Department of Justice into the Missoula Police Department is still ongoing, but Austin revealed that it should wrap up soon.

The Missoula County Attorney’s Office, which has refused to cooperate with the federal investigation, came under scrutiny by Austin who mentioned that an investigation there, “May require litigation at some point.”

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Original live report by Peter Christian

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