DPS and MPD discuss sexual assault policies amid several reports

Marquette’s Department of Public Safety met with the Milwaukee Police Department yesterday to discuss the university’s current policy on handling sexual assault cases.

The meeting comes as the district attorney’s office reviews two separate cases of alleged sexual assault, one last October and a more recent incident in February, by student athletes in Humphrey Hall.

University officials called the meeting to ensure Marquette is reporting campus crimes in accordance with state laws, said Russell Shaw, associate director of DPS, who attended the meeting.

“We want to make sure we are reporting crimes in a timely and correct fashion in compliance with state law,” Shaw said.

The controversy that inspired the meeting arose out of Marquette’s current policy of making it the victim’s choice to contact MPD after reporting an alleged sexual assault to DPS. Shaw said this option is always made available.

“MPD has always been an option,” Shaw said. “We never deny victims that.”

However, Shaw said the meeting was brief and inconclusive. The two parties agreed that interpreting state law is outside the realms of both DPS and MPD, and the issue should be brought before the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office for a better understanding of the statute.

“This meeting will be the first in what will likely be a series of ongoing discussions taking place over the course of several meetings,” said Kate Venne, director of university communication, in an e-mail.

The district attorney’s office is currently reviewing two sexual assault cases that were reported to MPD near the end of last month, said Kent Lovern, chief deputy district attorney for Milwaukee County.

The most recent of these cases involves a woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by an acquaintance in Humphrey Hall on Feb. 27 between 12 and 1 a.m., according to a DPS crime log. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report indicated the alleged perpetrator is a student athlete.

The victim filed a report with DPS on March 31, inciting a case review under the student conduct system, which is underway.

The second case involves an unrelated alleged sexual assault by four student athletes last October. The university’s Division of Student Affairs, which handled the case, found the students not guilty under the student conduct code. The victim initially declined MPD assistance but later decided to bring the case to the police on March 22.

The district attorney’s office expects to reach a decision on whether or not to file charges by mid-May, Lovern said. He also commended DPS and its crime reporting.

“We have had a long-standing, positive relationship with DPS in regards to community prosecution in the past,” he said.

This school year, a total of five alleged sexual assaults have been reported to DPS. Besides the two cases being reviewed by the district attorney’s office, there were two more on-campus reports and one off-campus.

In an incident on Dec. 5 in Cobeen Hall, the victim declined DPS assistance. However, MPD was notified. On March 30, a student living in Straz Tower reported a sexual assault case to DPS but declined MPD assistance.

Most recently, a case was reported last Friday in which MPD was contacted and responded, according to the DPS crime report.

“Reporting an incident to (DPS) does not require a victim to file charges or pursue legal action,” Venne said in an e-mail.

She said the process does, however, give victims an option to press charges as well as access to a number of campus resources, including the Counseling Center, Campus Ministry, and HAVEN (Helping Abuse and Violence End Now).

“In cases of reported sexual assault, out of sensitivity to and respect for the victims and to encourage the reporting of such incidents, we try to make the reporting process as victim-centered as possible,” Venne said.