MISSOULA (AP) — The Missoula Police Department has started an internal review of 50 sexual assault cases over the last two years due to concerns city officials have about the way the agency handles sexual assault reports, the police chief says.
Chief Mark Muir said the review will be finished in time for a public meeting Wednesday before a Missoula City Council committee.
"We found two cases we feel weren't adequately investigated," he told the Missoulian (http://bit.ly/wziJwa). "They were reassigned."
He said he chose the last two years because the statute of limitations had not expired on those cases.
City Council members requested the review after two people publicly complained about the way police handled their sexual assault reports. Muir and Missoula Mayor John Engen said they believe those two cases are exceptions.
But community groups who advocate for women want reassurances that sexual assault reports are handled appropriately by Missoula police.
"There should be no reason that someone who's been a victim of one kind of crime should feel like they are not safe going into the police department versus any other kind of crime," said Stacy Rye, director of Women's Opportunity and Resource Development. Rye also previously served on the city council.
Cindy Weese, director of YWCA of Missoula, said an annual review of the organizations that are involved in rape cases would lead to positive results for victims.
"I really do believe that all of the stakeholders in that system are willing to do that," Weese said. "But it may take a body like the City Council to hold the system accountable for doing that."
City Councilwoman Cynthia Woken pushed for this week's meeting with Muir. Council members want to hear about how police handle investigations, conviction rates and support for victims. Councilors also want information about how police handle sexual assault reports at the University of Montana, where University President Royce Engstrom has said the university has a problem with sexual assaults. The university is doing its own internal investigation following several rape allegations off campus that have brought sharp focus on the university.
Councilman John Wilkins said a big concern he has is the relationship between the university and Missoula police.
"What I'd like, because of the privacy law, is better coordination between the university and our police department," said Wilkins, chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee.
In August, Muir said he wants to improve the police department's statistical analysis of violent crimes.
"When I went to get some statistics pertinent to everything that's going on in the community right now, I found out the statistics were all over the place," Muir said. "It was clear proof that my action plan needs to be put into action."
Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com