Mayor to cop- "Sorry about that" E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

Getting a politician to apologize to a police officer is about as likely as getting hit by lightening while you’re simultaneously experience a shark attack.
In other words it’s a rare occasion and worth celebrating. In Missoula, Missouri Mayor John Engen recently said that he overreacted when he asked a Missoula police officer to apologize to the University of Montana.

The officer, speaking only as a private citizen on his personal email account, criticized the way the University of Minnesota handles of sexual assault cases.

“I make mistakes, some big, some small,” the mayor wrote in an email sent to all city employees, including police. “Not all of them appear in newspaper headlines, but one did on Sunday and I wanted to let you, the officers I count on to serve and protect our community, know that I’m sorry for that mistake.”

The officer that Engen went after initially is named Geoff Curtis. The officer wrote university administrators and alumni an email expressing his concerns about the “spiraling PR mess” over allegations of sexual assault and gang rape involving UM students.

Just hours later UM Vice President Jim Foley contacted Mayor Engen to verify that Curtis was a police officer. The next day Engen emailed UM President Royce Engstrom, Foley, Missoula Police Chief

Mark Muir, Assistant Police Chief Mike Brady and Missoula Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Bender:

“In addition to an emailed apology to all addressees of the note you received from my police officer, Geoff Curtis, Officer Curtis will be requesting a moment of your time in the near future to offer an apology in person for the inappropriate message and its content.

“You also have my apologies. I am embarrassed, especially given all the progress I think we’ve made in the last week, by this note that suggests we’re not informed, measured or thoughtful in our approach to the complex issues of ending sexual assault in our community,” the email read.

Engen, in an extremely rare and very adult measure for a politician to take, later wrote another email saying that Curtis was never reprimanded and that no formal disciplinary action was taken.

“In the end, I apologized for something that wasn’t mine to apologize for and I asked someone to apologize for expressing his opinion outside of his work life,” Engen wrote. “Now, months later, I regret both of those actions.”

Engen said he overreacted because he thought that criticism from a city employee, even on his own time, would hurt communications between the city and UM.

So all’s well that ends well.

Not only did Officer Curtis get a mea culpa from the mayor, the attention the case has garnered might have played a role in the decision by the Department of Justice tom open an investigation into how sexual assault cases are handled by UM and its campus police, as well as the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.


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Comments (4)Add Comment
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written by Bryan adams, July 11, 2012
You guys said university of Minnesota in the third paragraph. I'm pretty sure you meant the university of Montana.
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written by Bryan adams, July 12, 2012
You guys said university of Minnesota in the third paragraph. I'm pretty sure you meant the university of Montana.
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written by Jason, July 12, 2012
Which is it? Missoula, Montana or Missoula, Minnesota? Is it the University of Montana or the University of Minnesota? Very confusing article on where this takes place.
don't get it
written by andrew johnson, September 20, 2012
I don't get it, what's your point?

(editor's response: I'm afraid I don't understand the question.)

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