Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday that his office will be hiring more than 60 new assistant district attorneys to address a statewide shortage of staff.
District attorneys have spent years lobbying for more positions. But until now, the staffing level throughout the state has been stagnant for a decade, limiting the ability of district attorneys to do their job. A job that Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney Michael Thurston says is critical to the community.
“Those of us who are in the courtrooms day in and day out, year after year, we have a front row seat to how important our work is,” says Thurston. “We are the witnesses to our community’s greatest challenges. We are uniquely positioned to administer those various solutions.”
District attorneys are essentially the prosecuting arm of law enforcement. When police investigate a case, collect all the evidence, it is then the job of the district attorney to get a fair prosecution or offer an alternative to time served in jail.
Thurston says the staffing shortage is acutely felt in Waukesha County.
“Here in Waukesha, we lost three prosecutors. We lost them back in 2003 — we haven’t recovered,” he says.
Currently, Waukesha County District Attorney's Office has 15 assistant district attorneys. However, according to the most recent Work Load Analysis report, they’re still in need of nine full-time positions. And Waukesha isn’t an outlier. Almost all 72 counties in Wisconsin are under staffed.
It’s precisely this problem that Democratic Evers is trying to address by announcing an increase of almost 65 new assistant district attorney hires by the state.
“Through the budget and through my veto, we were able to increase assistant district attorney staffing in 56 Wisconsin counties,” he explains.
Evers emphasizes the importance of the new hires. He says not only is this an investment for future generations but also a change of direction in a state that has lagged in corrections reform.
“We also heard from public safety professionals that these new positions this will help them speed up investigations while allowing our counties to take a more mindful evidence based approach in cases and utilize the tools available to them,” Evers said.
Milwaukee County will be receiving three of the new hires. The jobs will be posted by October, according to Secretary of the Department of Administration Joel Brennan.