The state Justice Department will launch a new software program later this year to track evidence collected in sexual assault cases, which the department hopes will prevent future evidence backlogs, Attorney General Josh Kaul announced Wednesday.
The program will be able to monitor the time that sexual assault forensic exams, also known as “sexual assault kits” or “rape kits,” spend at different points in the processing system, which includes hospitals, law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories.
“It’s part of our effort to strengthen Wisconsin’s response to sexual assault,” Kaul said in an interview. “What this would do is empower survivors of sexual assault, victim advocates, law enforcement and the crime labs to track the progress of a kit as it works its way through the system. It allows everybody involved in the system to make sure that the process is going along as it should and that there’s not an unnecessary delay in the system.”
The effort comes after DOJ, under both Kaul and his predecessor, Republican Brad Schimel, worked to eliminate a backlog of nearly 7,000 forensic exams in law enforcement and hospital custody across the state that DOJ discovered in 2014.
With federal grant funding, Wisconsin began testing those kits in 2016 and finished in late 2019.
Kaul announced in November 2019 that the backlog of forensic exams, some of which dated back to the 1980s, had been cleared.
Sexual assault kits can contain evidence that is crucial to finding sexual predators or freeing those wrongly convicted. The thousands of cases remained on hospital and law enforcement shelves in Wisconsin because suspects were already identified and prosecutors thought cases were too weak to continue or victims wouldn’t cooperate.
The STACS Track-kit software DOJ plans to implement will monitor the status of sexual assault forensic exams, and also allow sexual assault victims to be able to directly access information about their evidence from the time it is collected until its disposal. The system is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Kaul said the new software program would complement a bill, passed by the state Senate and awaiting approval from the state Assembly, that would require law enforcement agencies and others to report data about sexual assault forensic evidence into DOJ’s tracking system.
If local agencies are required to input data into the tracking system, DOJ says the state would have an up-to-date inventory of all sexual assault forensic evidence kits, which would go a long way toward preventing future backlogs.
Kaul said DOJ will move forward with the kit tracking system regardless of what the Legislature does, but added the system will be more effective if lawmakers approve the bill to require local agencies to report data.
Currently, there’s no mandate that local law enforcement agencies participate in the tracking system, but the legislation before the Legislature would create one.
Kaul said the tracking system will make processing sexual assault evidence more straightforward.
The announcement of the new tracking system comes as DOJ continues to conduct an inventory of all the sexual assault evidence kits that have been created since Jan. 1, 2016, since the most recent push to collect and test kits was only for those collected through 2015.
DOJ will continue to conduct the inventory until the launch of the sexual assault evidence kit tracking system. To date, 173 of 557 law enforcement agencies have begun the inventory.
DOJ has also updated its data for sexual assault evidence collected through 2015, which shows that 1,087 kits with foreign DNA identified have been added to a national database of DNA profiles, out of 4,476 sexual assault kits. So far, 15 cases are associated with charges being filed, and five of them have resulted in a guilty verdict.
The data show 7,720 sexual assault evidence kits were collected between 2010 and 2015, with about half of those being submitted for testing for the DOJ’s push to address the backlog. Some of the reasons the kits weren’t tested is because a prosecutor declined to pursue charges or dismissed the case; law enforcement chose not to pursue an investigation; or a victim reported sexual assault but then chose to not pursue the claim.
Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces
Make no mistake about it: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left painful scars. But this year’s Top Workplaces project shows that many employees across the Madison region remain resiliently upbeat and are clinging to their workplace cultures, even from a distance.
Celebrate the best of Madison’s local employers and hear top executives explain how they create and maintain their cultures of growth.
This year’s winners run the gamut from dentistry to financial institutions and engineering to software developers and many more.
Survey feedback from employees is the sole basis for determining Top Workplaces. And that feedback serves as the ultimate test of how employers are responding in the age of COVID.
This year’s top-ranked large organization, with about 590 Madison-area employees, UW Credit Union has made diversity a priority during the past few years.
Exact Sciences, which rose from a small operation to a growing force in cancer diagnostics, thrives on a workplace culture fueled by innovation, teamwork and a common enemy.
Teamwork, problem-solving and helping agents find success — however they measure it — drive the workplace culture at First Weber Realtors.
Everyone wants their pre-pandemic lives back, but the crisis revealed the value of Summit Credit Union’s strong culture.
The ability of Kwik Trip employees to manage change was important to the convenience store chain’s success during the past year, as it expanded, rolled out new product offerings and dealt with COVID-19.
Here are the other top-ranked large firms in Top Workplaces 2021, rounding out a diverse mix of some of the area’s bigger employers and featuring a range of benefits that employees are able to tap into.
The Madison-based firm, which develops mass notification software to alert employees at schools, government office and businesses to emergency situations, strives to understand what drives high job satisfaction among its employees.
WPPI Energy president and CEO Mike Peters says communication is vital to the success of the Sun Prairie-based, member-owned operation that serves 51 local electric utilities with wholesale electric power supply, utility technologies and services.
Employees at Madison-based Ascendium Education Group have adopted the values and mission of the organization and appreciate the training that keeps them on the cutting edge.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation values humility and customer service in a culture that has buy-in from CEO Steve Jacobson to the newe…
The disruption and chaos inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic tested the stability of First Choice Dental’s workplace culture.
The Top Workplaces winners among midsize companies reflect innovative styles to building corporate cultures that their employees embrace. Here’s a look at the other winners in the mid-size category:
When the pandemic arrived, Horizon Develop Build Manage president and CEO Dan Fitzgerald was certain of one thing: His employee culture, built purposefully and over time, would carry the company through all of the disruption.
When Jack Koziol started InfoSec Institute in Madison in 2004, he felt that workplace culture was nothing more than a corporate buzzword. Seventeen years later, he knows better.
In the past chaos-packed year, revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — and the agency had its first layoffs in 20 years, while its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.
Being successful in providing customers with information technology solutions and services starts with a family-centered culture based on fun, gratitude and expertise at AE Business Solutions.
The Sun Prairie-based company, which specializes in servicing and supplying components for heavy-duty, off-highway equipment through 10 service centers in the U.S. and Canada, strives for transparency.
Although winners in the small-company category reflect a variety of missions, they share a common characteristic: They have built strong workplaces that provide stand-out benefits and flexibility. Here are the other winners in the small-company category:
Among this year’s Top Workplaces, employees singled out several companies for their extraordinary efforts in important phases of workplace life, ranging from leadership to transparency.
Businesses that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a pandemic that shattered conventional ways of working quickly discovered that a strong workplace culture was vital to surviving and thriving during the crisis.
We have no idea what the extent of these changes will be or whether this whole notion of “normal” will ever find itself back into our lives.
Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, spoke about what makes CUNA’s culture special.
Kathy Marsh, co-founder and vice chair of Musicnotes, shares her thoughts on the workplace culture at the Madison-based digital sheet music retailer.
Larry Barton, chief executive officer of Strang, talks about creating a strong culture at the Madison-based firm.
To become a Top Workplace, organizations instill in their team members a variety of values and approaches that keep their businesses thriving in the marketplace, their employees engaged and their communities strong.