Study shows county DA offices short staffedThe Wisconsin Department of Administration did an analysis of workloads in the offices of district attorneys around the state and found that most are understaffed.
By: By Doug Stohlberg, New Richmond News
The Wisconsin Department of Administration did an analysis of workloads in the offices of district attorneys around the state and found that most are understaffed.
In St. Croix County, for instance, in October 2012 the county had 5.20 full-time equivalent positions (actually that number is only 4.2 FTEs if you do not include the district attorney). According to the study, the county should have 8.11 FTEs based on workload, population and other factors.
On the date of the study, the county was short 2.91 FTEs.
St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson called the numbers “shocking.”
He said in 1987 he had five assistants and the population of the county was approximately 36,000.
“The number of assistant district attorneys in my office has been reduced to 4.2 and the population in St. Croix is over 80,000,” Johnson said.
By comparison, in 1987 there were two judges, three public defenders and two probation agents. In 2012, the county has four judges, nine public defenders, 11 probation agents and two court commissioners.
“The number of assistant district attorneys in my office has been reduced,” Johnson said. “It makes no sense.”
He said he lost 1.3 FTEs in 2002 under Gov. Jim Doyle, but the downward spiral has continued, losing another position this past year when two state financed grants were cut.
Statewide the DA offices have also suffered over the years. The Department of Administration study indicates that there are 429.10 FTEs in the state’s district attorney offices. The study claims that the needed number is 643.95 — or 214.85 more than are on the job today.
“Again I think if the public was aware of the shortages statewide, they would be shocked,” Johnson said. “Prosecution of cases is a core law enforcement function and right now many offices are not able to keep up.”
He said it is difficult for undersized staffs to function properly.
“Assistants can sometimes be rather inexperienced,” Johnson said. “If they are overworked it can be difficult for them to prosecute against an experienced defense attorney.”
There were only five counties (out of 71) that were considered overstaffed by the study. All five were small counties that have approximately a one-person staff and the caseload could conceivably be handled by less than one person.
The counties with the biggest staff shortages were Racine (15.16 FTEs short), Dane (14.45 short), Brown (12.29 short) and Waukesha (10.95 short). The largest DA office in the state is in Milwaukee County, with 121.5 FTE in the office, but only 4.45 FTEs short of the study’s ideal number.