Promises Made, Promises Kept - 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

“When I was sworn into office in January 2015, I promised to enforce the rule of law, defend the constitutions of the United States and Wisconsin, protect our state against federal overreach, create a stable and predictable legal and regulatory environment and make Wisconsin safer and stronger,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel, head of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). “I’m proud to say – our DOJ team has kept these promises.”

 

Following is a list of accomplishments made by Attorney General Brad Schimel and DOJ in 2017.

 

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

 

Preventing Opioid Addiction through Public Awareness

In 2015, Attorney General Schimel launched Dose of Reality, a statewide prevention campaign designed to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse and its effect on the opioid epidemic. The campaign has prevention messages for Wisconsinites from all walks of life, including the medical community, students, coaches, parents, educators, and employers. In 2017, a prevention message just for seniors and caregivers was developed.

 

DOJ also partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to produce TV and radio public service announcements that warn of the dangers of drugged driving. These public service announcements have won awards from national industry experts.

 

The award-winning Dose of Reality campaign has been adopted in Nebraska, Maine, and Minnesota, as well as countless community, faith-based, medical, and educational organizations.

 

Coordinating Statewide Drug Disposal

DOJ partners with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for Drug Take Back Day, a biannual, nationwide event to prevent drug diversion and abuse by getting all unwanted and unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs out of medicine cabinets and safely destroyed. Since October 2015, Wisconsinites have helped us safely dispose of more than 330,000 pounds of unused medications. That’s 17 semi-truck trailers full!

 

This year, Wisconsin’s Drug Take Back events had the largest number of participating law enforcement agencies in the nation, and was once again one of the top states in the nation for drug disposal. Only California and Texas have collected more than us, and not by much.

 

Holding Opioid Manufacturers and Insurance Providers Accountable

Attorney General Schimel has been working with a bipartisan coalition of 40 other attorneys general from across the country in an ongoing investigation to evaluate whether pharmaceutical manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of opioids.

 

Attorney General Schimel also joined a coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin.

 

Providing More Drug Enforcement Resources to Keep Wisconsin Safe

2017 Special Session Assembly Bill 10 provided DOJ four additional special agents who work to dismantle major heroin trafficking networks. DOJ was provided additional funding to support overtime, training, supplies and services for the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

 

Expanding and Supporting Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) Programs

To increase treatment options, DOJ’s TAD program offers offenders the opportunity to enter diversion or treatment court programs, which typically involve drug and/or alcohol treatment and other risk reduction services to offer non-violent offenders a safe alternative to jail or prison confinement. Through 2018, these programs will be funded in 51 counties and two tribes, with more than $6 million provided annually to support these local programs.

 

Making the Life-Saving Overdose Medication More Accessible and Affordable

Attorney General Schimel reached agreements with manufacturers to expand access and affordability of the live-saving opiate antidote, NARCAN® Nasal Spray. Through an agreement with Adapt Pharma, police, first responders, state, or local government agencies, as well as community-based organizations are eligible for a 40% discount on the drug. Attorney General Schimel also renewed the state’s agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, which established a rebate program for the heroin and prescription painkiller antidote naloxone. The Attorney General also coordinated an agreement with Adapt Pharma to provide free NARCAN for University of Wisconsin System campuses, the first such system-wide initiative in the country.

 

Protecting Law Enforcement from Drug Overdose

With fentanyl cases in Wisconsin increasing, law enforcement are exposed to potentially dangerous unidentified powders. To prevent accidental overdoses, Attorney General Schimel directed the state crime lab to permit law enforcement officers to perform their own field tests at the lab, instead of at an uncontrolled location. Under the trained guidance of state crime lab technicians, law enforcement is now able to proactively protect itself from potentially lethal powders.

 

Preventing Pharmacy Robberies

In order to prevent and deter pharmacy robberies, DOJ and the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin developed a training for local law enforcement and pharmacists. The Pharmacy Robbery Prevention and Response training, is provided to pharmacies by law enforcement and teaches pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, clerks, and other pharmacy personnel how to deter a robbery; what to do when a robbery occurs; and what to do after a robbery occurs.

 

Stemming the Tide of Meth

 

Combatting Methamphetamine Abuse

In February 2017, Attorney General Schimel briefed the Wisconsin State Legislature on the growing threat of methamphetamine. To help counties in northwestern Wisconsin combat meth, Attorney General Schimel appointed an assistant attorney general, who is headquartered in Eau Claire, and will assist local district attorneys and law enforcement in the prosecution of methamphetamine-related cases.

 

Attorney General Schimel also supported AB 306, which requires the implementation of the electronic National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system, which records, tracks, and helps blocks the illegal sale of pseudoephedrine products. These products are often used in home-grown meth labs. NPLEx is available at no cost to state agencies and its users, including pharmacies, retailers, and law enforcement when a state passes electronic tracking legislation.

 

Protecting the State’s Most Vulnerable

 

Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse

In August, Attorney General Schimel announced the creation of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse. The task force is charged with compiling the resources and knowledge of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to study the impact of elder abuse in Wisconsin and assessing ways to improve outcomes for this growing population of citizens.

 

Operation Broken Heart and Operation New Hope

The DOJ Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force participated in Operation Broken Heart, which joined 61 ICAC task forces nationwide during a two-month operation identifying and arresting suspected child sexual predators during April and May 2017. The Wisconsin ICAC Task Force made more than 80 arrests, including 16 arrests that were made during Operation New Hope, a week-long operation focused on child exploitations and online crimes in Wisconsin. These are two examples of the many ICAC operations conducted by DCI on a regular basis.

 

Funding to Protect Children from Online Predators

2017 Wisconsin Act 59 provided funding to further support the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force’s mission to protect children online. With the funding, the ICAC team will continue to provide training and a hub for critical communications, and ensure that operations are streamlined and outreach will create more awareness throughout the law enforcement community.

 

DCI’s Human Trafficking Bureau

In a statewide assessment, Wisconsin law enforcement in nearly every county in the state reported that human trafficking occurs in their community. Recognizing this growing problem, Attorney General Schimel established the DCI Human Trafficking Bureau. The bureau is tasked with developing a coordinated statewide strategy to identify, target, and prosecute traffickers in order to combat human trafficking and provide needed assistance to survivors. Already this year, the bureau conducted a major sting and arrested 25 sex traffickers, “johns,” and child abusers.

 

New AMBER Alert Website

Attorney General Schimel launched a new, more user-friendly AMBER Alert website. DOJ provides critical support when a child or adult goes missing in Wisconsin, both in the immediate aftermath and over the length of an investigation.

 

Supporting Crime Victims

 

Reforming Wisconsin’s Response to Sexual Assault

This year, Attorney General Schimel selected five counties - Bayfield, Dane, La Crosse (campus community), Sheboygan, and St. Croix - to serve as pilot sites to strengthen and enhance their own Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART). These counties will receive extensive cross training for multiple involved disciplines; assistance in developing local policies and protocols for SART teams; and guidance through the creation of a continual sexual assault case review process.

 

Due to the increased occurrences of sexual assault occurring on college campuses, Attorney General Schimel has deployed resources specific to campus sexual assault. This year, at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), DOJ hosted a first-of-its-kind training about campus sexual assault.

 

Testing of Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits to be Completed by End of 2018

Wisconsin’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI) is a statewide effort to address the accumulation of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits in the possession of local law enforcement agencies and hospitals. As of December 2, 2017, 6,386 previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits had been inventoried. Of these inventoried kits, 4,030 kits are currently designated for testing. Of the kits designated for testing, testing is complete on 594 kits. Another 1,675 kits are currently being tested at the external lab or are waiting to be tested at the external lab.

 

Testing on all sexual assault kits currently designated for testing will be completed by the end of 2018.

To learn more about SAKI, go to wisaki.doj.wi.gov.

 

By Your Side Campaign Launch

DOJ and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), created the By Your Side campaign to support survivors of sexual assault. Any survivor who had a kit collected and does not know if their kit was tested for the presence of DNA evidence can call 1-800-446-6564 or go to ByYourSideWI.org to initiate the process of locating their kit and exploring options for DNA testing. Survivors will also be connected with support services.

 

Safe at Home Address Confidentiality

In 2017, DOJ launched Safe at Home, a statewide address confidentiality program that provides victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and trafficking, and those who fear for their physical safety with a legal substitute address and free mail forwarding service. In the first six months, Safe at Home expanded to serve 203 active participants, including 108 children, in 95 Wisconsin households. Also, there are now 320 application assistants across the state who assist participants with safety planning and applying for the program, up from 60 application assistants designated when the program launched. Find out more at www.SafeatHomeWI.gov

 

Statewide Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Training

DOJ continued support for specialized training created for law enforcement, victim advocates and district attorneys in the area of sexual assault and domestic violence. This multidisciplinary training is considered best practice as it provides a collaborative, victim-centered response to sensitive crimes, reducing the potential for re-victimization by the criminal justice system and hastening the process of healing for the victim. In addition, DOJ continues to support specialized training for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, including five adult SANE trainings, three pediatric SANE trainings and six clinical labs.

 

Consumer Protection

In addition to joining a coalition of states to investigate opioid manufactures, Attorney General Schimel has worked closely with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and other states to target companies that use unfair business practices, break Wisconsin law, and harm Wisconsin consumers. Over the last year, Wisconsin has taken action against and negotiated settlements with companies who have used illegal marketing practices, misrepresented over-the-counter drug quality, taken advantage of tenants, defrauded Medicaid, and jeopardized motor vehicle safety.

 

Supporting Wisconsin’s Law Enforcement

 

Tools to Protect Law Enforcement

Attorney General Schimel implemented the Imminent Threat to Law Enforcement (ITLE) notification, which uses the Transaction Information for Management of Enforcement (TIME) System to provide warnings and other critical information to law enforcement officers.

 

Officer Wellness Campaign

Attorney General Schimel has emphasized and dedicated additional resources to officer wellness – both in body and mind. To prepare officers mentally and emotionally, DOJ has increased training hours in stress management, healthy relationships, and financial stability. DOJ personnel are also now trained as suicide prevention program instructors and so far, these team members have trained nearly 900 law enforcement professionals across the state.

 

Enhancing Open Government

 

DOJ’s Office of Open Government, established in 2015, has continued to dramatically shorten prior average response times and continues to be a resource to all state, regional and local government entities and citizens. In order to increase transparency, the office also started posting a snapshot of all public-records requests pending each week, making average monthly response times for the office available, and making responses to public-records requests available online.

 

Defending the Rule of Law

 

This year, the Office of the Solicitor General defend two Wisconsin laws before the Supreme Court of the United States.

 

In the landmark case Gill v. Whitford, the Solicitor General defended Wisconsin’s redistricting maps signed into law in 2011.

 

In Murr v. Wisconsin, the Office of the Solicitor General defended Wisconsin’s property rights law, and the court ultimately upheld the state’s lot-merger provision.

 

The Office of the Solicitor General also co-lead the successful effort to stay the implementation of the Obama Administration’s so called “Clean Power Plan” and “Waters of the US” which would have dramatically harmed Wisconsin’s economy.

 

In lower courts, DOJ protected Wisconsin’s laws and criminal convictions on countless occasions.

 

In Loertscher v. Anderson, the United States Supreme Court stayed a lower court’s decision that blocked Wisconsin’s law protecting unborn children and their mothers from prenatal substance abuse.

 

DOJ successfully defended the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s Right to Work law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Int’l Union of Operating Engineers v. Schimel) and in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals (Machinists’ Local 1061 v. Walker). Today, Right-to-Work is the law of the land in Wisconsin.

 

DOJ also obtained a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit of a lower-court injunction against Wisconsin’s voter identification law (Frank v. Walker).

 

DOJ has also won favorable rulings from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in several criminal cases, including rulings affirming the constitutionality of the admission of toxicology reports used by coroners and medical examiners (State v. Mattox), and preventing meritless requests for post-conviction DNA testing (State v. Denny).

 

These cases were all defend by DOJ’s Office of the Solicitor General, an office created by Attorney General Schimel in 2015. The cases defended by this office come at a significant cost savings to taxpayers, compared to the costs other states have borne from hiring outside counsel.