Natrona County District Attorney Rips Council, Wyoming Legislature
For an event peppered with proclamations, the main speaker wasted no time condemning them Wednesday.
"We spend too much time reading fine proclamations and making public statements and doing nothing," Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen said at City Hall for a ceremony to honor volunteers and law enforcement agency workers in an observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. "And nowhere is that more true than in this building and our Legislature."
The National Office of Victims of Crime organizes the Victims' Rights Week for communities to recognize individuals and organizations that provide service and support to victims.
That's perhaps okay to a point, but Blonigen said when it gets down to public officials committing priorities and cash for the justice system, they don't.
Local and state governments have chronically underfunded victims' rights programs such as the nonprofit Self Help Center and the Children's Advocacy Project, he said. "They constantly go begging for funds to do their simple tasks they try to undertake every day."
Likewise, the local and state governments cut funding for police departments, the State Crime Lab, prosecutors, judges and public defenders, Blonigen said. "All those things are necessary if crime victims are truly going to be heard."
"This city council and this state Legislature have repeatedly done nothing to improve services for victims," he said.
Blonigen asked the crowd of law enforcement employees, city and county officials and other residents to honor the volunteers.
He also wanted them to ask their elected officials when they will act, "not in words, but in funding, staffing and resources that actually help victims."
After the ceremony, Blonigen said state and local governments have acted when certain issues become impossible to ignore, such as the emphasis on methamphetamine awareness and the creation of the Children's Advocacy Project for interviewing victims of child sexual assault.
But the Legislature has cut funding for the State Crime Lab, diversion programs, the intensive treatment unit program at the state work farm.
Locally, and ideally, Blonigen would like to see the city fund the police department with four new full-time positions for four officers to deal only with sexual assault and domestic violence.
Assigning blame or setting priorities for programs is not just a matter for elected officials, he said.
"Criminal justice reflects society," Blonigen said. "We're simply a reflection of the community."
These are the agencies and their volunteers honored for their work with crime victims.
Casper Police Department: Jill Binnett, Brittany Gerhart, Jenny Hunter, Angelina Potter, Melissa Miech, Tanya Southerland, Brenda Boles, Denise Bressler, Michelle Blake.
They work in the Crisis Response Unit, which provides 24-hour crisis response, support, and advocacy service to victims of all types of crime. They donated 13,000 hours of on-call time and more than 300 hours of on-site service to victims in our community last year.
The Department also recognized its detectives for their investigative work in support of victims.
Natrona County Sheriff's Office: Julie Raines, Rose Fry, Jenny Hunter, Laura Kerns, Sharon Mooney, Rissa Daugherty, Paul Ferguson, Mike Smith, Diana Ludeman, Michelle Gibbs, Becky Murray, Peg Reed, India Hayford.
Natrona County District Attorney’s Office: Trevor Schenk.
Self Help Center: Marty Robinson, Ginger Olson.
The Wyoming Medical Center also received recognition for its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE Nurses) program and the "Start by Believing Campaign," a national campaign aimed at changing the way society responds to reports of sexual assault.