"We've made a lot of progress over the last year," she said, "at increasing the county participation. In Wisconsin it's a voluntary program, so we have to sell each district attorney in the state on our system, and to do that, we have to emphasize customer service, meet each district attorney where he or she is, understand his or her needs, then build on what they have."
Several years ago, said Chalmers, the state had 71 DAs operating independently. Today, the network serves two-thirds of the citizens in the state. A third of the population is served by a case management system built to the DA's specifications.
Sept. 11 highlighted the need to have law enforcement in the loop, said Chalmers. "What we are hearing from our police chiefs," she said, "is that criminal justice information is a key issue for preparedness, not just criminal justice."
Chalmers said that while other states look at a centralized top-down approach, Wisconsin has to start at the grassroots and build acceptance, and sell the program on its merits. This resulted in a strong partnership with the DAs, she said.