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Attorney General Josh Kaul wants more money to boost testing capacity at the State Crime Labs and modernize the state Department of Justice's ability to respond to digital crimes. 

Kaul said in an interview with the Cap Times Thursday he will make funding for those programs a priority in his budget request, which will be rolled out as a part of Gov. Tony Evers' two-year spending plan later this month.  

"We want to make sure we are modernizing DOJ's ability to respond to public safety issues and (make) sure the tools we have to respond reflect modern challenges to public safety," he said. 

Since 2015, times for DNA testing at the state's three crime labs have increased, Kaul said. That delays how evidence can be used by prosecutors in court and limits how law enforcement can effectively catch criminals. 

The state crime labs have also been working on testing and processing sexual assault kits that went untested for years across the state, a years-long effort funded, in part, by federal grants. Kaul said he is working with legislators to introduce a bill to ensure that a backlog never happens again. 

Kaul said he is also requesting more employees for the department's digital examiners unit. Those analysts recover evidence from cell phones and computers and also assist local district attorneys in doing so for regional cases.

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"That technology is ubiquitous these days, so making sure there are sufficient number of people to cover that is important," he said.

Kaul also wants more funding for community policing, drug treatment and diversion programs, a move that could save the state money in the long run, he said. Funneling some drug offenders into those types of programs also frees up prosecutors to focus on the most serious offenders. 

Grants to enhance community policing efforts, so officers know people in their community and residents become familiar with their local officers, can also improve how effectively law enforcement officers respond to crimes, he said. 

"I think improving those relationships is important and you get better outcomes from those relationships," he said. "From a law enforcement standpoint, you get better intelligence when you have those relationships." 

 

Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.