With a Web site, posters, radio spots and billboards the Missoula Police Department and community partners are campaigning to stop bias, and report it when it occurs.
The effort has its roots in the work of a Missoula Police officer who reached out to the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in Missoula after some gays — and young men and women perceived to be gay — were savagely beaten in unprovoked attacks. The officer drew up a form for reporting hate crimes and bias, said Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir.
In those early days, the department received two complaints, but since then, none.
“We had a concern that that happens when something isn’t well enough known,” Muir said.
Sgt. Casey Richardson and Spider McKnight of the local ad agency Salt Studio, as well as others, raised money, built a Web site and otherwise pushed forward the idea of publicizing the department’s efforts to bring bias out of the dark. In the end, the group raised $12,000 to fund an advertising campaign.
“We’re looking forward to improved reporting on these issues,” Muir said.
Gender issues were a focus of the most recent campaign. Muir said the departments wants to address racial bias, too.
“That’s what we’re leaning toward tackling, as a bias. We want to make sure we’re rounding the bases to fight these bias issues,” Muir said.
That’s why this city-wide effort is so great, Muir said. For publicizing public campaigns, the department’s budget is about zero.
“It’s unconventional for a city of a law enforcement body to do something like this. The biggest obstacle would be the financial side of it,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without the community.”