The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Bureau has officially begun its direct investigation into sexual assaults on the University of Montana campus and in the City of Missoula. Investigators spent several hours with University officials on Tuesday and spoke with Police Chief Mark Muir on Wednesday. Chief Muir says the Bureau is conducting what is called a 'Pattern and Practices' investigation, to ensure that police are safeguarding the civil rights of all involved.

Muir says the police department has investigated 518 sex crimes from 2008 until 2011. Misdemeanors are referred to the City Attorney, while felony investigations go to the County Attorney's office for prosecution. Muir says because of the nature of the sex crimes investigations, no two are handled alike. Muir says his detectives are specially trained to protect the confidentiality and civil rights of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator. Muir says he believes his department will learn a great deal from the involvement of the federal government, and will use the knowledge to improve their practices.

The U. S. Department of Justice became involved in early May, when representatives from the Civil Rights Bureau held a news conference in which comments were made by Chief Muir, Mayor Jon Engen, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and Assistant U. S. Attorney Thomas Perez.

Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir