MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican attorney general hopeful Adam Jarchow proposed a multi-faceted plan Wednesday to curb violent crime and help students with mental health issues in an effort to counter primary opponent Eric Toney’s prosecutorial experience.
Jarchow, a former state representative from Balsam Lake, will square off against Toney, the Fond du Lac County district attorney, in an Aug. 9 primary. The winner will advance to face incumbent Democrat Josh Kaul in the Nov. 8 general election.
Jarchow has been working to energize the conservative base by attacking President Joe Biden on issues including inflation, while Toney has painted himself as an experienced prosecutor. Jarchow’s plan represents his first major attempt to stake out ground on law enforcement issues.
“Families across Wisconsin want to fund our police, get crime under control, end the low-bail travesties, and keep our kids and communities safe. As Attorney General, our brave men and women in uniform will have a strong ally — and together, we’ll fight the rise in violent crime and Make Wisconsin Safe Again,” Jarchow said in a statement.
State Department of Justice spokeswoman Gillian Drummond referred a request for comment to Kaul’s campaign. No one with the campaign immediately responded to an email Wednesday morning. Toney’s campaign had no immediate comment.
The first part of the plan would create new programs at two- and four-year colleges to train more police officers; waive tuition and forgive student loans for people entering law enforcement careers; and establish a grant program to help local police recruit and pay officers. The plan doesn’t include cost estimates or say where the state Justice Department would get the grant money.
Republican lawmakers introduced a number of bills during the past legislative session that would have accomplished most of those goals using federal COVID-19 relief funds but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the proposals.
The second part calls for creating a violent crime taskforce made up of state Justice Department agents and prosecutors that could deploy to any community to help local law enforcement investigate and prosecute violent crimes.
The task force also would compile data on violent crime rates as well as violent offenders’ bail and custody status. Republicans are still angry with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for allowing his office to recommend bail at just $1,000 for Darrell Brooks Jr. Prosecutors say Brooks drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, a Republican stronghold, just days after he was released in November. Six people died and dozens more were injured.
The Justice Department already provides investigative and prosecutorial assistance to local officials that request it on a moment’s notice, but it doesn’t have a task force devoted to violent crime. The FBI also compiles data on violent crime.
Jarchow campaign aide Joe Fadness said creating the task force will “focus” Justice Department resources and ensure locals get the help they need. The task force would create a system that can monitor crime data in real time, he added. The FBI publishes its statistics annually.
The third part of the plan would give the Justice Department the ability to charge offenders in gun cases anywhere in the state. District attorneys currently have original jurisdiction over such cases. The Justice Department’s ability to file charges directly would sunset after three years. The plan calls for funding the initiative with a surcharge on relevant cases.
Fadness said local prosecutors are overwhelmed with mounting gun violence and need help. Milwaukee, for example, has recorded 62 homicides so far in 2022, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel database that tracks homicides in the city. Most of the victims — 89% — were fatally shot. The city recorded 197 homicides last year and 190 in 2020. In both years, 90% were shot to death, according to the database.
Granting the Justice Department such jurisdiction would require legislative action. If Evers survives reelection in November and Jarchow wins the attorney general’s office it’s almost certain Evers would veto anything granting him such powers.
The last part of the plan would transform the Justice Department’s Office of School Safety into a full-fledged division, providing more resources and staff to deal with school safety issues. Money won from legal settlements would help fund school-based mental health programs for students and their families. The division would work to train police officers stationed in schools.