AG asks governor for more crime lab analysts in budget

Feb. 15, 2019


Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers voices opposition to a Republican-authored income tax cut bill, saying he favors his plan which would all-but eliminate a manufacturing tax credit, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Madison, Wis.

MADISON Wisconsin's attorney general has asked Gov. Tony Evers to include money to hire more crime lab analysts and boost their salaries in his executive budget in the wake of a scathing report on delays in testing evidence.

Josh Kaul said in an interview Thursday that he asked for more digital forensic specialists technicians who specialize in scouring electronic devices for evidence in hopes of freeing up analysts to actually analyze evidence. He asked for more ballistics experts and more technicians for collecting evidence from crime scenes and assisting in the labs. He also asked Evers to sign off on a new pay progression plan for lab employees.

Kaul declined to elaborate on the specifics of the requests, saying he wants to see what Evers includes in the budget. The governor is set to release his two-year spending plan on Feb. 28.

The Republican-controlled Legislature will revise the proposal before shipping it back to Evers, who can use his partial veto powers to reshape the budget to his liking. The process typically takes several months and could run even longer this year as Evers, a Democrat, faces off with the GOP over spending priorities.

Testing delays have plagued the labs for years as police submit more evidence in hopes of developing suspect DNA profiles and other leads. Turnaround times for DNA, firearm, tool mark and drug tests have grown dramatically since the beginning of 2015.

A review of Wisconsin crime lab operations that Florida International University's National Forensic Science Technology Center released in September found the labs suffer from multiple problems, including poor morale, below-market pay and accepting too much evidence from police.

The review also found entry-level analysts are making more than senior analysts because the market rate for their positions is outpacing salary increases for the more experienced workers, shredding morale.

Lab administrators' pay is so low they're constantly looking for jobs elsewhere. Employee turnover has become such an issue that the labs are in a constant state of training, which pulls analysts off coursework, the report said.

Kaul campaigned on speeding up work at the labs, accusing his predecessor, Republican Brad Schimel, of mismanaging lab operations.

Evers calls special election for Kenosha-area Assembly seat

MADISON Gov. Tony Evers has called a special election for April 30 to fill a vacant Assembly seat in Kenosha.

The vacancy was created when Democratic Rep. Peter Barca resigned after Evers picked him to serve as Revenue Department secretary. The seat is in a Democratic area and the only announced candidates to replace Barca are both Democrats.

Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Tip McGuire and community organizer Gina Walkington are both running. The primary is April 2, the same day as the spring election.

Evers called the special election Thursday. Candidates can begin circulating nomination papers Thursday and they're due March 5.

Barca's nomination as Revenue secretary is pending state Senate approval.

Kaul working on bill to prevent rape kits from piling up

MADISON Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul says he's working on legislation to prevent untested sexual assault evidence kits from piling up.

Thousands of untested kits dating back to the 1980s sat on police and hospital shelves for years in Wisconsin because suspects were already identified, prosecutors felt cases were too weak or victims didn't cooperate.

Kaul's predecessor, Republican Brad Schimel, got federal grants in 2015 to test the kits. The work wasn't completed until October of last year, sparking intense criticism from Kaul on the campaign trail.

Kaul said in an interview Thursday he's working on a bill that would clarify when kits need to be tested. He did not elaborate on the bill's specifics but said he hopes it will be introduced in the next few months.


Associated Press