Evers’ license crisis putting public safety at risk

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 20, 2022

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ incompetent Department of Safety and
Professional Services is now compromising public safety.
As Empower Wisconsin has chronicled, dysfunctional DSPS has made untold
numbers of professionals wait months — some a year a more — for their licenses.
The bureaucratic delays have hit just about every credential holder, healthcare
professionals in particular.
Now the agency’s bumbling is stalling private security employees from doing their
jobs in the Milwaukee area, where rising crime is a significant concern and a major
issue in next month’s election.
“I am emailing you about unacceptable licensing delays with the Department of
Safety and Professional Services (DSPS),” Isaiah Baker, Chief of Field Operations
for Advanced Private Police, a private security firm in South Milwaukee, wrote in
an urgent letter this week to lawmakers.
Baker explained that the spike in crime has led to high demand for security
services. While the worker shortage has been a problem, now the security
company’s biggest hurdle is the Evers’ administration’s failure to process security
licenses.
“As a state regulated profession, our licensing goes through the DSPS which has
delayed issuance of licenses for all professions. Our company has seen delays
up to 52 days for an individual’s licensing as of October 17, 2022,” Baker wrote.
In one case, an employee applied on Aug. 26. The security firm sent DSPS the
required finger print report. As of Wednesday, DSPS had failed to conduct the
review or to proceed to further processing.
Like so many other business representatives Empower Wisconsin has spoken to,
Baker said he’s getting nowhere with a state agency that refuses to return calls
and emails.
“I have attempted to contact DSPS on numerous occasions, through both phone
and email. Each time, I was transferred to the Security Credentialing department,
and would sit on hold until the system forced me to leave a voicemail,” the security
official said. “I have yet to receive a return call or email. Many other members of
our team have also attempted to contact DSPS with the same lack of success.”

The bureaucratic bumbling has had real-life, real-time impacts on the business
and the community. Baker wrote that the delays and employee attrition are
resulting in the company’s licensed officers, including the owner and upper
management, being overworked to maintain current contracts. That overextension
is leading to health issues, low morale, and lessened quality of service, which
“poses an increased risk for an unsafe environment for the general public.”
And Advanced Private Police is facing the loss of income, because without being
able to add positions it won’t be able to cover existing contracts or take on new
business. It’s also paying more for overtime.
The incompetence at DSPS is creating a serious ripple effect, Baker wrote.
“For the general public, sensitive or high risk establishments that truly need the
protection of security services are often times going uncovered, or having to
contract an illegally operating unlicensed agency which does not hold itself to the
same standards as a company that a wishes to do things properly,” Baker
explained. “To be candid, if things continue the way they are today with the delays,
it could be catastrophic for not only my employer, but the industry as a whole, as
we are not the only company experiencing the issues outlined above.”
It’s a similar problem for Wisconsin license holders statewide.
Empower Wisconsin has spoken to and detailed the accounts of dozens of
credential applicants and professional advocacy organizations about long delays
and poor communication at DSPS.
The agency has blamed the Republican-led Legislature for not providing enough
funding to deal with the backlog, but the record shows otherwise. As Empower
Wisconsin has reported, the Joint Finance Committee approved $5 million for
technological upgrades to the agency’s filing system. DSPS officials failed to
request the funds for a year. Evers failed to quickly come through on federal
COVID aid he promised to use to address the problems at DSPS.
A legislative task force looking into the license crisis, and Wisconsin’s professional
licensure system in general, has for months requested status reports on the
delays and a breakdown of the positions required to get the backlog turned
around. DSPS officials failed to answer the task force’s inquiries until recently,
according to state Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond), chair of the task force.
Agency officials also have failed to show up to task force meetings over the past
couple of months.
In its long-delayed response, DSPS claims it has reduced processing time for all
credentials from 86 days in fiscal year 2020 to 46 days in the 2022 fiscal year
ended June 30. But the agency won’t provide processing times for individual
credential categories.

“We want to know what occupations have the longest wait times. We’ve heard
from different people that licenses are taking months, sometimes up to a year to
get processed,” said state Rep Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), vice chair of the
license task force. “So DSPS gives us an average, but when we ask for specifics
they can’t tell us. So they’re either making that number up or they’re just not being
transparent.”
Baker is begging the Evers administration to issue an executive order or the
Legislature to pass a bill to deal with the license crisis and expedite credentials —
like legislation in 2021 that allowed healthcare workers to be temporarily licensed
until they cleared the process. Security does have a similar temporary licensed
status, but it’s costly and doesn’t allow security officers to be armed in the field.
“Our goal is to have security officers in the

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