WI Attorney General to focus fighting crime, ensuring public safety and protecting kids in 2023

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 5:12 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Public and school safety will remain a top priority for Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul as he looks toward the new year.

Months before securing another term as Wisconsin’s Attorney General in November, Kaul submitted his upcoming budget proposal. Now he’s ready to fight for what he calls his ‘crime fighting budget’.

“We need dollars from the state. There’s a record-breaking state budget surplus and investing just a portion of that surplus in a variety of things that promote public safety I think can make a real difference,” said Kaul.

Kaul said now is the time to invest in officer recruitment and retention, community policing and violence prevention. He said an increase in shared revenue would also help with critical services.

“Those are dollars that go from the state government to local government and fund critical services like local law enforcement. So we need to keep working in collaboration with local governments and agencies around the state to make our community safer,” said Kaul.

Community safety also comes in the form of justice for victims and survivors. Right now, a lack of prosecutors and public defenders is slowing down the court system in some areas of the state. Recently in Brown County, a court commissioner noted one defender had called 70 different public defender offices with no luck in securing one in a timely manner.

“When there’s a delay in our court systems, that delays justice for everybody involved and so some victims of crime for example, can have to wait much longer than they should have to wait for cases to move forward when a defendant can’t get an attorney appointed,” said Kaul.

Kaul said his office is working with a group called ‘Criminal Justice Coalition’ to address delays.

“I would include making sure that District Attorney pay is set at a rate that’s going to stop the attrition so that we can keep more folks in DA’s offices and that we can get defense lawyers appointed more quickly in the process,” said Kaul.

At the state level, Kaul would like to add dozens of positions to keep up with the demand at the state crime lab. To date, the lab has been able to prevent any backlog of rape kits and a new tracking system has helped with accountability.

When it comes abortion litigation, Kaul said he is in the process of trying to restore access to safe, legal abortions in the state after the overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

“I’m optimistic about our arguments, but regardless of how that goes, and we’re still looking at several months, if not longer before we have a decision here,” said Kaul

Kaul said there are other pending court cases he can’t comment on right now, like the Kewaunee County dairy farm facing criminal charges for the alleged illegal spread of manure.

“What I can say generally, is that we are committed at the department of justice to enforcing our environmental laws and to protecting the ability of Wisconsinites to access safe and clean drinking water and our office has been enforcing our environmental laws,” said Kaul.

Another major focus for Kaul with his next proposed budget is school safety. In 2022, he says the office of school safety created 12 regional crisis, critical incident response teams across the state to support school safety. The office launched a 24/7 tip line and runs the ‘speak up, speak out’ program. Federal funding for the office runs out in 2023 so Kaul is asking the state to step up

“I know that there’s a lot of support for the work that that office does and allowing that office to continue doing that work by providing ongoing state funding is critical in the upcoming budget,” said Kaul.

He would also like to increase the number of special agents working on cyber tips connected to missing and exploited children.