Dane County DA calls prosecutor shortage ‘public safety crisis’

Calls on county, state lawmakers to fund positions
Dane County DA calls prosecutor shortage ‘public safety crisis’

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said some criminal cases may not be prosecuted by his office due to a shortage of prosecutors that he calls a “public safety crisis.”

Ozanne held a news conference Tuesday morning to call on lawmakers at the state and county levels to fund prosecutor positions.

The DA said there are four open positions in his office that have not been filled, but overall his staffing levels are at the same level they were in 1985.

Ozanne said his office is taking measures to prioritize cases “which most threaten the community.” Those would include homicides or violent crimes, sexual assaults, crimes against children, human trafficking, domestic violence, drunk and drugged driving, serious financial crimes and serious drug trafficking offenses.

“Some residents will be upset that the District Attorney’s Office is not prosecuting cases that directly impact them as victims,” Ozanne said, saying those residents may be referred directly to restorative or municipal courts. “Many of these cases should be criminally prosecuted, but we simply do not have sufficient resources.”

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney and Blue Mounds Police Chief Andrew Rose joined Ozanne for the news conference. Mahoney re-iterated that state lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker should fund additional prosecutor positions.

“It is inexcusable that our state leaders and lawmakers who are entwined in petty name calling and arguments at state level fail to meet the needs of our citizens who are victims of crime,” Mahoney said.

State lawmakers recently approved a budget that included a new pay progression for deputy and assistant district attorneys, but did not include new county prosecutor positions. Ozanne said that since 2011, he’s submitted three budgets to the state asking for 11 to 12 assistant DA positions.

Ozanne also recently asked the Dane County DA’s Office for three positions in the county budget. That proposal was declined by county executive Joe Parisi, and the proposal is now in front of the county board.

Stay tuned to News 3 and Channel3000.com for more on this developing story.