Gov. Evers announces $50 million investment in public safety, criminal justice initiatives
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers made stops in Wisconsin Tuesday to announce $50 million in funding for police, sheriff’s offices, and criminal justice initiatives.
The governor’s office says more than $50 million will be invested in public safety. Funding through the federal American Rescue Plan Act will also be used to help relieve the backlog of criminal cases and shortages in the offices of public defenders and prosecutors.
The governor says $19 million will go to local and tribal law enforcement agencies for training, recruitment bonuses, community policing and other needs.
Amounts vary based on population and crime stats. In general, the more crime exceeds state averages, the more an agency receives, but every local and tribal law enforcement agency in the state is eligible to receive at least $7,000.
“There’s more that we can do and this is another public health crisis that deserves our attention and our action,” said Governor Evers during a news conference Tuesday at the Green Bay Police Department.
Another $16 million is going toward the courts to reduce a backlog of cases caused by COVID.
Of that, $5.5 million will fund ‘roving teams’ of public defenders to go where they’re most needed to address a shortage of public defense attorneys.
That also includes $5.7 million to fund 30 more assistant district attorneys across the state.
In Northeast Wisconsin, Brown County receives the most additional positions with 2.5.
“This pandemic has caused a number of different challenges in our communities,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Five-million dollars is also being directed to the crime labs.
The governor says that will allow for outsourcing of DNA, drug tests and firearms analysis to allow current staff to testify at trials and keep court cases moving.
One-million dollars is also being tagged for the Wisconsin Technical College System to support part-time police academies.
“All law enforcement agencies, whether it’s big or small is going to be provided some money in this, so we anticipate it’ll make a difference throughout the state,” said Evers.
The Green Bay Police Department is eligible to receive the largest amount of federal dollars from this initiative at $391,000.
Police Chief Chris Davis said he had just learned about this money and hadn’t yet determined how to use at the time of the news conference, but he knows there are needs in the community where it could help.
“I hear every day from community members who are concerned about public safety issues here in Green Bay,” said Davis.
With shots fired calls in the city hitting record levels the last two years, a lot of attention has been put on gun violence already.
Davis says Green Bay’s allotment could be added to anti-violence initiatives already underway, but that’s not the only big issue begging for attention.
“Along with traffic safety, drug issues and people experiencing mental health crisis,” said Davis, making a list of needs. “Every little bit helps, so this will certainly benefit those efforts.”
He also highlighted significant needs to address ongoing recruitment and retention problems that a large number of law enforcement agencies have been facing during the pandemic.
“Our communities have been under stress for the last two years as we’ve navigated this pandemic, and as a result, our police officers have been under incredible stress and duress as well,” added Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich.
Because this is federal money, the governor’s office says it must be used in a specific timeframe -- April 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. A spokesperson says agencies can spend the money and request reimbursements quarterly.
“For starters, we’re going to do what the legislature won’t, which is giving our local leaders the resources and flexibility they need to address unique challenges facing their communities,” said Evers.
We asked the governor about announcing the grants now since he is up for election later this year.
He responded, “We want to make sure we’re doing this, and all of this has been provided to us while campaigning is going on, so you know, stuff happens.”
Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee will also receive $20 million for criminal justice system initiatives and community safety. More than $14 million will go to expanding the Milwaukee County courthouse and reducing the backlog of cases in the criminal division there.
CLICK HERE to see how much your community will receive.
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