The mother of murdered college student Brittany Zimmermann joined two state legislators yesterday in announcing a bill to make those arrested for felonies give their DNA to the police. Jean Zimmermann of Marshfield said it would save lives. Her daughter was killed near UW Madison a year-and-a-half ago, and police never found a suspect. The bill she’s supporting would add thousands more DNA samples to a state data-base which already collects them from those convicted of felonies.
Senate Republican Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Assembly Democrat Ann Hraychuck of Balsam Lake introduced their bill yesterday. That was after reports that up to 12-thousand convicts never put their DNA into the database, including 400 registered sex offenders. Harsdorf says it would be much easier for police to collect DNA when they arrest people. She also brushed back criticisms that it would cost too much, saying it would save on investigative costs.
The American Civil Liberties Union says it has the potential to be a huge violator of privacy. Unlike fingerprints, DNA contains a person’s genetic make-up and an unknown treasure trove of personal health information. Wisconsin ACLU director Chris Ahmuty also says it would overwhelm the State Crime Lab, which has struggled with backlogs in processing DNA evidence. He says they look for needles in haystacks and it won’t help to throw more hay on the stacks.
Meanwhile Senate Democrat Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee has a bill he says would ensure future DNA of felons get filed.
Coggs was one of the lawmakers to call for the formation of a task force to track down the felons whose DNA is not on record, a plan the Correction Department has implemented. The task force, made up of retired law enforcement, met for the first time last week.