An email from a Missoula police officer – writing as a private citizen on a personal email account – to University of Montana administrators and boosters expressing his concerns about alleged sexual assaults at UM provoked a quick reprimand by the mayor.

“I am writing to urge you all to stop this spiraling PR mess and take action instead of trying to defend your actions,” Geoff Curtis wrote at about 11 p.m. on Feb. 29.

At 5:46 a.m. on March 1, UM Vice President Jim Foley wrote Missoula Mayor John Engen: “Is he not a city policeman?”

“He is,” Engen wrote two hours later. “My apologies. We’re talking to him as soon as possible this morning.”

But even before Foley received that response, he’d emailed Curtis’ missive to UM President Royce Engstrom, saying: “He is a Missoula city police officer.”

*****

Curtis declined to comment on the email when contacted by the Missoulian. It was among several emails received as part of a joint Freedom of Information Act request by the Missoulian and the Wall Street Journal, regarding a months-long investigation by UM into alleged sexual assaults on and off campus.

“He was off duty and on his personal email,” Deputy Missoula Police Chief Mike Brady reiterated Friday. Brady was unsure whether Curtis had ever apologized in person to UM.

But he was ordered to.

The next day, Engen emailed Engstrom, Foley, Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir, Brady and Missoula Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Bender:

“In additional 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.”

Then-UM athletic director Jim O’Day added to the email chain: “Could (Curtis) be the ‘anonymous source’ who is providing them (the Missoulian) with information? Interesting coincidence. Wonder if he was one of the officers involved in the tasing incident?”

“Yes,” Foley replied, “and no.”

No Missoula police officer has made anything other than a public statement to the Missoulian about any sexual assault allegation, including those allegedly involving UM students. The “tasing incident” referred to an October postgame party during which police tased UM Grizzlies quarterback Gerald Kemp and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The two players later pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge.

Engstrom fired O’Day and football coach Robin Pflugrad in March, saying only that change was needed.

*****

The Missoulian attempted to contact university officials for comment on this story. Engstrom is in Australia until Tuesday and Foley’s voicemail box was full. He did not respond to requests for comment via text messages or emails to his work and personal accounts.

On Friday, Engen termed Curtis “pretty passionate about his university. It was just one of those situations where it probably was not the most appropriate choice, given what his career choice is.”

While Engen said “there was an offer (to apologize) during a particular meeting. I don’t think we need to do it today.”

Later, he texted the Missoulian to say that “Curtis is a really good young officer and his was a minor mistake born of good intentions.”

(6) comments

perky0731
perky0731

A minor mistake? So speaking your mind, as you get to do in America, on your off time, out of your work hours, on your own computer and not wearing your uniform, is worthy of being called a mistake? Well, heck Mayor - city employees shouldn't even be allowed to vote. Unless they are voting for you, of course. I, on the other hand, no who I will not vote for. At last check, your political importance is the same as mine. One vote. One person. One democracy. Bravo to that officer. Would that there were more people like him, in any position who care passionately about anything. As for you, dear Mr. I-Used-To-Be-A-Standup, i'll get the last laugh when my vote against you, cancels out your vote for yourself.

gma
gma

Cover up the cover up!! I too hope that Officer Curtis stands his ground. Right now I would not really want to send a young daughter to the U of M and that is sad. I have previously had 2 graduate from there.

french fries
french fries

And Jabba the Hut jusy sits there like a lump on a log. We elected this socialist.

are you kidding
are you kidding

A big thumbs up to Officer Curtis for saying what needed to be said!! Absolutely NONE of these people deserve ANY sort of apology from him!! I am repulsed by the mayor's and UM administration's egotistical arrogance! Unbelievable!!! I hope Officer Curtis stands his ground and does NOT apologize, he has absolutely nothing to apologize for, the mayor and UM administration should be apologizing to HIM!!

troopers_wife
troopers_wife

What is wrong with this picture? An officer, off duty and on his own time and computer, writes an email. A very appropriate email. He gets punished. What about his Weingarten protections? What about his freedom of speech under the U.S. Constitution? Union protection? How do you say lawsuit? OMG! Maybe, just maybe, if UM would stop recruiting thugs and maybe require recruits to sign a moral/legal behavior contract as part of their scholarship this rape scandal would not be such a debacle. Cease the cover-up and blaming the victims!

Larry Lewis
Larry Lewis

Two things: First, these two guys look like they're either constipated, or their mom just yelled at them. Second, how arrogant are the Mayor and the UM administration that they think they can just silence and/or fire anyone that doesn't tow the party line? Why can't these clowns admit they made a mistake and then fix it? At least Missoula is starting to see the dark side of our jolly mayor.

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