Justice Department Investigating Montana Agencies Over Allegedly Bungled Sex-Crime Cases, Draws Comparison to MCSO

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it's investigating allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault around Missoula, Montana, including the University of Montana.

According to the Justice Department, "This investigation will focus on allegations that [the Montana agencies] are failing to adequately investigate and prosecute alleged sexual assaults against women in Missoula."

Just as a point of reference, the DoJ notes that this isn't the first time it's investigated something like this; you may be familiar with the Justice Department for its investigation into the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for allegedly bungling sex crimes, as well.

"The department previously found a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in the New Orleans Police Department," the DoJ says. "Similarly, the department found problems of significant concern involving the handling of sex crimes in both the Puerto Rico Police Department and the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff's Office."

Join the club, Missoula.

The Missoula agencies, thus far, have given the same initial reaction to the investigation that the MCSO did.

"Department officials met with city, police, and university officials, who pledged their full cooperation with the investigations," the Justice Department says.

Sure, the MCSO said it'd cooperate with the Justice Department, too. As we've chronicled here, the MCSO's changed its stance quite a bit.

The scope of the investigations is different, too.

There have been at least 80 alleged sexual assaults in the Missoula over the past three years, and the DoJ is investigating whether gender discrimination played a factor.

In the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, according to the Justice Department:

[W]e are continuing our review of allegations that MCSO has failed to investigate a large number of sex crimes.

The Sheriff's Office has acknowledged that 432 cases of sexual assault and child molestation were not properly investigated over a three-year period ending in 2007.

These cases only came to light after a review by the EI Mirage Police Department of a period in which MCSO was under contract to provide policing services to that community. It appears that many of the victims may have been Latino. If established, this may constitute a failure to provide police services in a manner that constitutes gender and/or national origin discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection guarantee of the United States Constitution. Our review will not be limited to the pre-2007 cases, but include any allegations that the practice continued after that time.

Quite a bit of difference there, but a nice reference from the DoJ letting Missoula know it doesn't want to be the New Orleans PD, Puerto Rico PD, or jeez, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley