APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV)-Both candidates for Wisconsin attorney general were on the campaign trail on Wednesday.
Democratic incumbent Josh Kaul stopped by the Appleton police station to visit a group of district attorneys participating in sexual assault training. The group of attorneys came from all over the state and the Department of Justice put together the training.
Kaul briefly spoke with the group about the importance of this training before fielding questions from the media. He rattled off his record of supporting survivors of sexual assault.
Kaul helped introduce legislation that requires all sexual assault test kits to get sent to state crime labs in an efficient and expedient manner. If a victim chooses to report to law enforcement, the health care professional will notify law enforcement within 24 hours after collecting a sexual assault kit. The law enforcement agency then has 72 hours to collect the kit from the health care professional, and then 14 days to send the kit to the state crime laboratories for analysis.
The legislation also created a database so sexual assault survivors can track their kits. The system uses a barcode to match kits to survivors so things remain confidential.
Last year, Kaul also launched an initiative to review reports of clergy and faith leader abuse and to empower survivors to come forward. In its first year, the initiative generated about 200 reports and one criminal case. Some clergy sexual abuse survivors have criticized the program for not going far enough to actually get offending clergy members and faith leaders behind bars.
“So making clear to survivors of sexual assaults that prosecutors are committed to prosecuting these cases is really critical to make survivors empowered to come forward and work with law enforcement,” said Kaul.
Attorney General Kaul has also supported laws that strengthen the rights of sexual assault victims when their cases go through the court systems.
While Kaul visited Appleton, his challenger Republican candidate Eric Toney was in Green Bay receiving an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business.
“If the crime bleeds through Main Street and other areas that impacts their ability to have employees and stay open and we need our main streets thriving and our small businesses which are the backbone of the American economy,” said Toney.
Toney did criticize Kaul about some of his initiatives regarding supporting sexual assault survivors.
According to a Department of Justice report, in the last year of former Attorney General Brad Schimel’s time in office, state labs processed over 12,000 cases which included more than just sexual assault kits. That number has gone down each year since Kaul took office and the same report indicated that may of the average turnaround times for getting results back are slower under Kaul than under the previous administration.
“Compared to our previous attorney general, Josh Kaul has taken in thousands of less items, he’s testing less items and he’s taking longer to do it in most categories including DNA,” said Toney.
The report did note that the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted turnaround times and the number of cases the state is able to process. Kaul also noted that he has been able to eliminate a large backlog of sexual assault kits that needed to be processed since he got into office.
“Ensuring that we are strengthening Wisconsin’s response to sexual assault has been a priority,” said Kaul.
“Our current attorney general campaigned on sexual assault kits in our crime labs and he pointed out the delays in testing,” said Toney. “His record is one of failure.”