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Fox Valley police, educators uneasy with 'double-dipping' rule

Officials pleased with bail bond, DNA budget decisions

Jul. 5, 2013
 

About ‘double dipping,’ DNA collection

“Double dipping” is the practice of a public employee retiring, collecting a pension and then returning to a public job. In such situations, the employee is paid a regular salary and a pension simultaneously. The measure failed in 2011 but became law Sunday when Gov. Walker signed the 2014-2015 budget.
Under the budget, police can collect DNA from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony, although the material won’t be analyzed until a court determines there is probable cause of guilt. Anyone convicted of a crime also must provide a DNA sample. Previously, only convicted felons and sex offenders had to provide samples.

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To view the full interview with Gov. Scott Walker about the budget, visit postcrescent.com/newsmakers.

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APPLETON — Fox Valley police officials say portions of the new state budget will make it easier to solve crimes, but some are unhappy with a provision that curtails careers after retirement.

Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka supported the budget’s DNA provision and veto of bail bondsmen, but was disappointed with the change that bars public workers from collecting both a state salary and pension.

Police and fire officials around the state argue they should be able to retire from a position and move into an administrative or educational role for the state.

“If you worked for Banta (Corporation), then moved to Kimberly-Clark, why would they suspend your retirement payments from Banta? It’s allowed in the private sector, why not in the public sector?” Styka said. “The pendulum swung pretty far on this with the budget and I’m hopeful it’ll settle back in the middle when the dust settles.”

During his meeting with Post-Crescent Media on Tuesday, Walker defended the provision in the biennial state budget.

“If someone wants to leave their position, they can work somewhere else, but can’t collect a pension on top of their salary,” Walker said. “I’ve heard some of these concerns … but others are excited because they thought sometimes in the past it was harder for new voices and younger officers to move up into these positions.”

Walker said state workers who come out of retirement would continue to accrue credits in the retirement system toward their pension. The new rule requires retired state employees to wait 75 days — up from 30 days — before they can be rehired for another state job.

Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, said the state’s top cop “is aware of the concerns of law enforcement, and he shares those concerns.”

During the budget deliberation, legislators leaned on a Legislative Audit Bureau report that showed state agencies and the University of Wisconsin System hired 2,783 retirees who continued to collect a pension over a five-year period.

Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College, said many of the firefighters and police officers who teach do so as adjunct professors and aren’t affected by the provision.

“We are concerned, however, about the unintended consequences this new legislation holds for our ability to hire seasoned, qualified full-time staff in public safety roles,” May wrote in an email. “Recent retirees of the police and fire service are perfect candidates… but will they be willing to suspend their pensions for these full-time opportunities?”

May said that answer would come in late summer as the technical college begins to fill open positions.

Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said he worries the provision will hollow out hiring pools for the state Department of Justice.

“You’ll see a change in who applies for those top leadership positions,” Wilkinson said. “They’re free to go take that experience to Illinois or Minnesota — but that’s our loss.”

Police, however, applauded a budget provision that allows officers to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony. The policy, which takes effect in March 2015, received wide support from law enforcement around the state, but drew criticism from civil libertarians.

Currently, Wisconsin law calls for samples from convicted felons and sex offenders.

The state’s DNA database will grow more robust under the new policy, said Jason Weber, spokesman for the Town of Menasha Police Department.

“It’s an easy cheek swab just like you see on (the TV show) CSI,” Weber said. “The intent is to build up the database just like we do with fingerprints.”

Styka said DNA evidence is crucial in criminal investigations.

“Fingerprints were revolutionary in the 1950s and 1960s,” Styka said. “Our new century demands more information and it will act as a safeguard for the community.”

Walker vetoed the provision that would have allowed the bail bonds system — and the bounty hunters that come with it. The policy was widely criticized by police, who argued it targets low-income criminals and hasn’t been proven to force offenders to attend court.

“It creates a whole new industry to serve people that have been arrested,” Wilkinson said. “But we’ve been doing just fine without it.”

— Nick Penzenstadler: 920-996-7226, or npenzenstadler@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @npenzenstadler

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