Missoula Rises presented a panel and community discussion on Monday night entitled Cops, Who Do They Police? Who Do They Protect? at the Homeword Building on Liberty Lane.

Panelists included Jake Coolidge with the Montana Justice Project, Emily Withnall representing the LGBTQ+ community, who spoke primarily about domestic violence, Meg Singer with the Montana ACLU and Dustin Monroe with Native Generational Change.

Withnall described her personal experience as a domestic violence survivor as well as a bystander, and said victims of domestic violence have  good reason not to trust the police.

“(Police) protecting each other is considered a professional courtesy and some call it the blue code of silence,” said Withnall. "For me, that brings up the question, if you’re a spouse of a police officer who is being abused by the police officer, who do you call? 40 percent of cops admit to having been violent with their spouse or children in the previous year. Cops have an abuse rate at home that is 15 times higher than those who are not officers.”

Speaking for Native Generational Change, Dustin Monroe described some of the problems he has encountered with the justice system and the University of Montana.

“When I was on probation, I couldn’t get housing, no place would rent to me, not that I would want my family to live in,” said Monroe. “My probation officer even called the university and let them know that I was on probation. That’s how much she went out of her way to make it hard on me.”

There were no law enforcement representatives on the panel.

Remarks by the panelists took approximately 45 minutes, and afterwards the attendees broke into small discussion groups to address the topics presented by the speakers.

(The entire panel presentation is contained in the above YouTube video)