AG asks governor for more crime lab analysts in budget

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — 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.

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.

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