Audit: Wisconsin crime labs not meeting new DNA testing deadline | Wisconsin

(The Center Square) – A new audit raises questions as to whether Wisconsin’s attorney general will be able to meet a new state requirement to get sexual assault kits tested within six months.

The Legislative Audit Bureau released its new report on the state’s crime recently, saying there are fewer requests for sexual assault DNA kits at the crime labs, but it is taking the labs longer to process each kit.

“The median turnaround time to complete assignments created in a given fiscal year increased by 48.7 percent,” the auditors wrote. “We calculated an overall median turnaround time for all units, in part, because DOJ indicated its goal is to have an overall median turnaround time of 60 days.”

A state law, that went into effect Monday, requires the state’s crime labs to be able to turn around those tests in no more than six months.

The audit questions whether that can happen.

“2023 Wisconsin Act 58, which takes effect in July 2024, requires sexual assault kits to be processed within six months, or within 60 days if a victim reports a sexual assault to a law enforcement agency, the perpetrator’s identity is unknown, and a public safety threat exists. We recommend DOJ ensure the kits are processed within the deadlines required by Act 58,” the report added.

The audit also noted Wisconsin’s crime labs are sending their DNA kits out to be tested at private labs.

“With more than 97% of kits that were processed by outside labs taking more than six months to complete, it’s going to be difficult for DOJ to meet their upcoming statutory obligations,” Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said after the audit was released. “The delays in testing, along with the choice to send many tests to outside labs in the first place, goes against the spirit and language of Acts 116 and 58. This is despite the additional funding and positions that DOJ has received in recent budgets.”

Cowles also said he’s concerned that the crime labs are not focusing enough on crime and crime victims.

“Everyone should be able to agree that survivors of sexual assault need to be supported by the criminal justice system, and that offenders of these heinous crimes do indeed represent a threat to public safety,” Cowles added.

The audit recommends 16 specific changes for the state’s crime labs, including filling open jobs, “modify” the use of private labs for certain tests and improve the labs’ timeliness. The LAB asked for an update from the DOJ and its labs by Sept. 30.

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