MISSOULA LAW ENFORCEMENT
Missoula Police Department
Missoula County Sheriff
The Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office are committed to providing effective, efficient, compassionate and confidential service to sexual assault victims. We understand the complexity of these cases and the resulting physical and emotional trauma caused to victims. The law enforcement response will address the safety, welfare and recovery of the victim, ensure public safety, investigate the crime and preserve evidence, and identify and prosecute the offender.
Duties, responsibilities and actions are the same whether the responding officer is with the Missoula Police or the Missoula County Sheriff. When calling 911, the 911 dispatcher determines the appropriate officer to send based on whether the reported crime occurred inside or outside the city’s geographic boundary.
Law enforcement officers are available to respond 24 hours every day for emergency and nonemergency reports of sexual assault.
Responding officers are concerned about the victim’s safety and well-being, about securing the crime scene and preserving evidence, and about locating witnesses and suspect(s).
ASSISTING THE VICTIM
Responding officers will show understanding, patience and respect for the victim’s dignity and will:
- Facilitate emergency medical attention as needed.
- Facilitate the presence of an advocate for initial and ongoing support.
- Ask the victim a few questions about what happened to establish the elements in the crime (see Preliminary Interview below).
- Explain the options and resources available to the victim and answer questions as needed.
- Provide victims with printed resources and contact numbers.
If the victim is able, responding officers will conduct a preliminary interview in order to determine that a crime was committed under Montana law. They will attempt to locate and preserve evidence relating to the crime, and they will work with the advocate to help the victim understand next steps in the reporting process.
- Request the victim’s name and contact information.
- Ask the victim some questions about what happened and the location of the incident.
- Obtain a description and location of possible physical evidence.
- Seek the identity, description and location of the suspect(s) and suspect vehicle.
- Find witness information.
- If the victim chooses, the officer will identify and photograph any injuries and encourage the victim to get follow-up photographs taken as the injuries change and heal.
- Facilitate a forensic exam at First Step for collection and preservation of forensic evidence, if the victim chooses. Forensic evidence can be helpful in prosecuting the case. (See page 6 for more about First Step.) Responding officers and the advocate will then answer questions for the victim and explain what will happen next in the process.
- Officers will explain that a specially trained detective will conduct a follow-up interview in a day or two after the victim has had a chance to rest.
- Provide the victim with the report number and contact information and advise the victim to report any new information to the Missoula Police Department or Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.
- Officers will ensure the victim is now safe and will stay safe before leaving the victim with the advocate.
The information gathered in the Preliminary Interview is documented in a report or confidential memo for follow-up investigation.
All felony-level sex offenses will be assigned to a detective for further investigation. This process involves a detailed gathering of facts and the collation of information and evidence that are part of conducting a thorough investigation.
- Request a detailed interview with the victim about the crime and will provide an advocate at this interview for ongoing support and resources.
- Conduct detailed interviews of witnesses.
- Conduct detailed interviews and interrogation of suspect(s).
- Gather visual and forensic examination of evidence.
- Work with the advocate to make sure the victim has ongoing support as needed.
The detective and advocate will keep the victim informed about what is happening and involved whenever possible. They will also submit a detailed investigation for review by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.