Budget committee adds money for overtime for beat patrol officers, DNA testing

By Molly Beck, La Crosse Tribune

Lawmakers writing the next state spending plan put more money toward paying overtime for beat patrol officers and toward analyzing DNA evidence of convicted and suspected criminals.

The action Tuesday by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is writing the 2017-19 state budget, approved a number of proposals made by Gov. Scott Walker related to the Department of Justice’s spending plan. This includes the $2 million Walker proposed to send to the state’s grant program to give local governments more money to spend on overtime for beat patrol officers in the state’s largest cities.

The committee also rejected Walker’s proposal to allow the $2 million be given to law enforcement agencies in communities of any size. Instead, the grants will be limited to cities with populations of 25,000 or more.

Lawmakers on the budget committee also approved the governor’s proposal to add $2 million in funding to test DNA evidence related to convicted or suspected criminals.

Walker proposed the additional funds over the next two years because of an increase in costs related to analysis in the state crime laboratories.

Republicans on the committee rejected a proposal made by Democrats to spend at least $2 million over the next two years to contract with another laboratory to speed up the time it takes to test sexual assault evidence kits with a goal of testing 200 more kits per month than the department currently completes.