MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula Police Department gave the media a look inside its upgraded facilities Thursday.
The projects were completed to help improve response to victims of violent crimes. Many of the renovations come at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Missoula Police Department entered into a 2-year agreement with the DOJ last year, after an investigation into the way the department handled reported sexual assault cases.
Police Department Public Information Officer Travis Welsh gave reporters a look at the remodel. The former detective understands the importance of being sensitive to victims.
"You're dealing with some very sensitive issues, very heavy in our community right now," Welsh said. "And victims who have suffered tremendous trauma."
Some of the changes include a new interview specifically for victims. It has soft chairs, set up more for a conversation than interrogation. It also has easy access with a door right inside the police department. Victims will no longer have to walk through the department to get to the room.
"We call it a soft room, and really that's quite literal. It's a softer entry into this judicial system, that's not so stark and not so intimidating," Welsh said.
Other changes include video monitors to show when interview rooms are in use and a camera that automatically start recording when the lights are turned on.
Then there's the separate Special Victims Unit (SVU) building where detectives, investigators and a supervisor of some of Missoula's most difficult crimes can work together, without the distraction of a public access police department. The unit focuses on children, as well as sexual and violent crimes.
"They can now come together in that conference area and collaborate and compare cases and compare suspects," Welsh said.
On top of that, Welsh said it gives the growing department more room.
"We are bursting at the seams here in City Hall; we didn't have the room to expand, to create this special office space."
Earlier in the year the Missoula City Council agreed to transfer $100,000 from the MPD's fiscal year 2014 vacancy budget; that's money that's saved from unfilled jobs. $50,000 went to remodel the interview rooms and another $50,000 went to lease and furnish the new SVU office.
On top of that, $36,000 would be set aside annually from the proposed Public Safety and Justice Tax district, to lease and upkeep the SVU office. That district is still in the protest phase.