ICYMI – AG Josh Kaul’s Abysmal Crime Lab Failures Exposed

Aug 17, 2021

In case you missed it, Wisconsin Right Now published an eye-opening article presenting numerous failures of the Josh Kaul administration. Failure to work with the legislature on rape kit reform, an inefficient and underperforming state crime lab, and a hollowed-out Department of Justice were just a few issues addressed in the piece.

Ryan Owens, candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General, criticized Kaul for his inability to usher in rape kit reform earlier this year in his op-ed published in the Cap Times. Owens went on Vikki McKenna’s radio show to discuss the continued failures of the Kaul administration by saying:

Things under Josh Kaul, are delayed and they are dangerous. The Department of Justice and the state crime lab are working on fewer cases than in the past, and it is taking them longer to process fewer cases. This is a problem with enforcing justice, and with keeping us safe”

“The problem we see with Josh Kaul is that he is simply too radical for Wisconsin, his priorities are not law enforcement, they are not to keep us safe, they are social justice priorities… he has pursued his left-wing agenda at the cost of our safety

AG Josh Kaul’s Abysmal Crime Lab Failures Expose
By Jim Piwowarczyk and Jessica McBride
Wisconsin Right Now
August 13, 2021,

 

AG Josh Kaul’s crime lab is worse on many key measurements than his predecessor, yet the media aren’t holding him accountable. That’s a double standard.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has failed on public safety, with crime lab delays worse in key areas – like guns and DNA – than those under former Republican AG Brad Schimel.

Kaul has gutted the Department of Justice’s public safety mission, DOJ data shows. Under his leadership, the Division of Forensic Sciences, which houses the state crime labs, handled almost 30% fewer cases than during Schimel’s last year, a trend that took root during his first year in office, 2019.

The negative trends exist even though Kaul admitted in his 2020 report that “the legislature made a significant investment in the crime labs in the last state budget.”

On firearms, Kaul’s crime lab is taking, on average, more than a month longer to process gun cases than Schimel’s crime lab at a time that firearm violence is a growing concern. In this area, the number of cases is roughly similar. His handling of firearms worsened in 2020 when compared to his first year in office.

The office so dropped the ball on toxicology testing that it had to farm it out to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, according to a January 2021 letter from Kaul’s DOJ obtained by Wisconsin Right Now.

In addition, in 2019, Kaul withdrew the Wisconsin crime labs from a federal ATF program called NIBIN, an automated database that looks for potential matches in fired bullet and cartridge cases. The reason given? That the office simply could not “responsibly and reasonably sustain the program.”

In 2020, the controlled substances, toxicology, firearms and toolmarks, and DNA databank sections each had more than 200 cases in the “queue,” meaning they were sitting for more than 30 days. With DNA analysis, that figure leapt to 998.

It’s going to get tougher to do these comparisons, if not impossible, just in time for the election.

But the bottom line is that, in each of his first two years in office, Kaul has failed to improve the Wisconsin crime lab turnaround times in key ways, despite plunging caseloads.

That’s a failure. At some point, the excuses pile up, and the leader has got to say the buck stops with him. The truth is that Kaul has never gotten his hands around the Wisconsin crime lab albatross. But he staked his first campaign on doing so.

Yet, with the rape kit issue not clogging up analysts’ time like it was under Schimel, you’d think Kaul’s DNA testing delays would improve. Instead, they’ve gotten worse.

In addition, Kaul has admitted that he’s taken actions that artificially reduced the caseloads handled by the crime labs, saying the drops were driven in part by changes his office made to the submission guidelines restricting what law enforcement and prosecutors can send to the Wisconsin crime labs in the first place.

The Wisconsin Crime Lab Tale of the Tape Under Josh Kaul

DNA analysis: FAILURE. Delays are up when compared to Schimel, but the number of cases being accepted is down more than 50%, a trend that started before COVID.

DNA databank: FAILURE. Delays are up over Schimel, and cases are down across the board, including CODIS uploads.

Controlled substances: FAILURE. Delays are up slightly when compared to Schimel, even though the number of cases taken in and completed plummeted under Josh Kaul, a trend that started before COVID.

Toxicology (analyzing bodily fluids or tissue for alcohol and controlled substances): FAILURE. Delays are up when compared to Schimel. Josh Kaul had to outsource some of the cases to another agency.

Firearms: FAILURE in 2020, MIXED in 2019

Kaul’s record on firearms has gotten worse. He’s taken in slightly more cases but completed slightly fewer in 2020. However, his average and median turnaround times in 2020 are worse than Schimel’s. His record was better in 2019 in this area in case output and median turnaround time, but the average was still worse than Schimel’s.

Toolmarks (analyzing marks on weapons at crime scenes): FAILURE. 

Although Schimel is listed as completing 0 toolmarks, and Kaul’s office has completed some, it’s operating with THREE-YEAR delays, so there’s no way we can label that a success.

Crime scene response: FAILURE. Delays are up, and the office responded to fewer crime scenes, a trend that started before COVID.

Latent prints: MIXED. Turnaround time improvements occurred, but his unit took in 28% fewer cases than Schimel, a trend that started before COVID.

Forensic imaging: MIXED. Average turnaround time dropped under Josh Kaul, but median turnaround time increased. One year, Kaul took in and completed fewer cases than Schimel, and the next he took in more. Work orders were down, a trend that started under COVID.

Trace evidence: SUCCESS. Josh Kaul’s turnaround time was better, and he took in slightly more cases, but output was 1 under Schimel.

Footwear: Mixed. Josh Kaul took in slightly more cases each year since taking office and improved the average turnaround time in this area.

To come up with our ratings, we looked at turnaround times but also considered whether output and intake had plummeted. It strikes us that if a crime lab is completing and/or taking in fewer cases in a time of rising crime, that’s also concerning and likely facts into turnaround times.

Josh Kaul has made a big deal of the rape kit testing issue as a partial driver of DNA caseload decreases during his tenure, although that doesn’t explain why it’s taking his analysts longer to turn around cases. Even Kaul has said the completion of the rape kit testing means analysts have more time for other things.

Kaul has also been battling Republicans to make it against state law for agencies to fail to submit more untested rape kits as the years pass – again, despite the lack of prosecutions that resulted from the first go around.

He also claimed drug analysts are overwhelmed with fentanyl cases. Kaul has sought more funding to prosecute those drug cases. He also blamed decreased spending flexibility, noting, “DOJ held position vacancies open in offices and divisions across DOJ longer than usual to help balance the budget, including vacancies in DFS.”

Quite honestly, at this point, it’s hard to think of an excuse Josh Kaul HASN’T made about the failures of the Wisconsin crime labs.

But the bottom line is that he has failed, and it’s imperiling public safety.

Read the full article here

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