Wisconsin Attorney General pushes for more funding for Wisconsin State Crime Labs

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul visited the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratories in Milwaukee and Madison on Thursday as he pushed to get more funding for the three facilities.

Kaul said that the crime labs play an important part in aiding law enforcement with investigations.

"The evidence that is being examined at the crime labs can identify a suspect, can provide an important lead to law enforcement as they're investigating a case. It can help exonerate somebody who is innocent of a crime," Kaul said. "And many prosecutions, the evidence that's examined at crime labs, can provide important additional evidence that helps with an investigation or a prosecution. But if there are lengthy delays in testing that evidence, that means that investigations can be delayed, court dates might have to be moved back, and ultimately there can be a delay in getting justice."

Kaul said additional funding would help reduce and mitigate the problem of backlogs of cases. He said currently, larger cases such as homicides and assaults can use more resources than cases like robberies, which can then pile up.

"When the crime labs don't have adequate funding, backlogs can develop, and there can be delays in cases," Kaul said.

The Department of Justice's budget requests funding for pay progression for crime lab staff, as well as funds to hire more staff.

"We hope to improve retention, make pay here at the crime labs more competitive," Kaul said. "And ultimately, have fewer people leaving the crime labs here for other forensic sciences jobs."

For law enforcement, crime labs are a valuable resource.

"The Wisconsin Department of Justice and the state crime lab help us out on cases every single day to bring justice to victims throughout the state of Wisconsin," said Todd Delain, Brown County Sheriff.

Delain and Brown County District Attorney David Lasee both reflected on how testing from the crime lab helped law enforcement solve the 2016 murder of Nicole VanderHeyden.

"It's thanks to the work of the crime laboratory that we were able to develop a DNA profile, that profile was put into CODIS, and we were able to locate the individual," said Lasee.

The DOJ's budget requests $1,899,500 for pay progression, and $1,807,700 for additional staff, including three crime scene response staff members, six DNA technicians, three chemistry technicians, one evidence technician, and two firearm analysts.