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Wisconsin law enforcement officials make case for increasing funds to keep Wisconsin safe

Wisconsin law enforcement officials make case for increasing funds to keep Wisconsin safe

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By Steve Schuster
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Officials gathered Monday afternoon at the Wisconsin Statewide Intelligence Center in the greater Madison area to educate the public on the work the agency does and to make a case for an increase in the state’s budget to hire additional agents and analysts.

The Wisconsin Statewide Intelligence Center (WSIC), located in the Madison area, is operated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), and is one of two fusion centers in Wisconsin. WSIC serves as the primary focal point for threat information sharing among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement, emergency management, fire service, public health, corrections, military, and private sector partners for the majority of Wisconsin.

“In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, improving information sharing between law enforcement agencies on the local, state, and federal levels became a priority,” Wisconsin DOJ officials said.

WSIC prevents “critical incidents” from happening around the state by ensuring intelligence is shared across agencies, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Monday.

“By ensuring that information about potential threats to public safety is shared across agencies, the Wisconsin Statewide Intelligence Center helps law enforcement agencies keep their communities safe. Thank you to the members of the team at WSIC for the outstanding work they do to protect Wisconsinites,” Kaul said.

In order to continue keeping Wisconsinites and the nation safe, DCI is requesting for additional resources in the upcoming state budget.

“In our upcoming state budget, we have requested additional resources for our Division of Criminal Investigation, resources that can support hiring investigators as well as criminal analysts,” Kaul added, noting that he hopes the Wisconsin Legislature will include additional funding in the budget for DCI.

Previously, Kaul said he is requesting funds to hire 19 new special agents and criminal analysts to bolster the services DCI provides.

In attendance at Monday’s event was Wisconsin Senator Kelda Roys. In an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal on Monday, Roys said she fully supports giving DCI needed resources.

“Public safety is a priority for our state and that is why Attorney General Kaul and Gov. Evers put forth a budget with smart investments to protect the public and increase safety,” Roys said.

According to Roys, on Tuesday, May 2, the Joint Finance Committee will hold its first meeting to consider the budget and begin voting.

“It’s unfortunate that the key pieces of their public safety and crime fighting plans are going to be stripped out of the budget tomorrow by GOP politicians, without regard for the need of Wisconsinites,” Roys added.

Republican Sen. Van H. Wanggaard’s Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel Scott Kelly told the Wisconsin Law Journal on Tuesday that their office has had “productive conversations with Attorney General Kaul” about providing funds necessary to hire additional DCI agents. Wanggaard serves as the Majority caucus chair.

“We think there is a need (for more DCI agents). The question is how the agents would be deployed,” Kelly said.

DOJ officials said, “These agents will focus on many of DCI’s investigative priorities, including homicide, narcotics, internet crimes against children, drug and human trafficking, arson, unresolved cases, white collar crime, elder financial abuse and more.”

DCI Special Agent in Charge Marshall Ogren said Monday the work they do encompasses a wide range of areas. Those areas include threats to the state of Wisconsin and “The Homeland,” he said.

At the state level, Ogren said they are in a very unique position to work with federal partners, including receipt of federal intelligence reports.

“We have the suspicious activity reporting program or (SARS) and the ‘if you see something, say something’ campaign. We rely on individuals who are out in the community. If they see something that’s maybe concerning to report that to us, and we can take those reports and see if it relates to anything seen on a broader federal level,” Ogren said, noting that DCI also recently authored and published an intelligence product describing concerns and potential mitigation as a result of a cybercrime investigation.

Also in attendance Monday was Dane County Sheriff‘s Office Detective Timothy Blanke, who serves as the liaison to the fusion center from the Department.

Echoing sentiments of Kaul and Ogren, Blanke said, “The cooperation between local and federal agencies throughout the nation is crucial.”

Blanke shared a success story of locating a missing person through the communication and coordination between law enforcement agencies via the fusion center.

“Everyday we are seeing fabulous coordination with the fusion center and it’s a great relationship I hope we can (continue) for a long time,” Blanke said.

A second fusion center located in the Milwaukee-area is referred to as the STAC. STAC serves the eight counties of Milwaukee, Racine, Washington, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Kenosha, Walworth and Jefferson. The WSIC covers all other areas of the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

According Kaul, there are a total 80 fusion centers throughout the nation.

“The fusion centers around the country work to gather information so that information is being shared among law enforcement agencies. They analyze that information and provide information to local law enforcement to ensure that if there is a danger to people’s safety that response can happen promptly,” Kaul said.

Missing persons alerts, including both Amber alerts and Silver alerts, are issued from WSIC.

Kaul said WSIC works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement.

WSIC accomplishes the following mission-essential tasks:

  • Provides major case support to law enforcement
  • Gathers, receives, analyzes and disseminates intelligence at the national, state and local levels
  • Performs critical services for government and private sector partners
  • The Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children and Adults
  • The AMBER Alert Program
  • The Silver Alert Program
  • The Wisconsin Crime Alert Network
  • Provides Training and Outreach
  • Threat Liaison Officer and Fusion Liaison Officer Programs
  • Continuing education for government and private sector partners
  • Protect civil liberties and privacy interests of American citizens throughout the intelligence process.

This story has been updated.

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