Johnson County Supervisors to discuss use of federal funds to track domestic abusers

Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel put forth a proposal to the American Rescue Plan Act team to use $250,000 of the $29.3 million federal relief funds for a program that would put GPS tracking devices on alleged domestic abusers and sexual abusers before they go to trial.


Johnson County Courthouse.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

GPS locators may be attached to pre-trial inmates who face domestic violence, sexual assault, or forcible felony charges, as proposed through the federal American Rescue Plan Act funding by Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel.

The American Rescue Act has $29.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds. Over 70 proposals were originally submitted to the American Rescue Federal Plan Act team and were then narrowed down after the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted out 11 proposals on Oct.13. The sheriff’s proposal made it to the next round of consideration on the same day with a 3-2 vote.

The board is set to make further plans regarding the proposals during its Oct. 27 American Rescue Plan Act team meeting.

Kunkel’s proposal is among almost 60 still being discussed.

“It’s a reasonable, progressive proposal and I’m hopeful that they approve the concept and approve the funding,” Kunkel said.

The current proposal requires an estimated budget of $250,000 to pay for the salaries of two full-time deputy sheriffs, one additional vehicle, and the hardware and software for the GPS devices.

The GPS trackers will be ankle monitors, Kunkel said.

“We have to think about the victims and survivors that are on the other side of these offenses as well,” he said.

Kunkel said he came up with the idea for the proposal a few years ago when visiting Pitt County in North Carolina, where he saw how the sheriff’s office there dealt with domestic violence offenders with GPS tracking.

Kristie Fortmann-Doser, executive director for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program — an organization that works to help victims of domestic abuse — worked alongside Kunkel during his time on the board as co-chair for six years.

RELATED: Carver College of Medicine to hold bench press competition to fight domestic violence and housing insecurity

“If batterers know that they have a monitoring system that can determine where they are, then that has an impact on their capacity to go to places that they can threaten victims at,” Fortmann-Doser said. “It does give additional evidence, and like I said it does give pause for many batterers in considering appropriate and inappropriate behaviors terrifying.”

Kunkel said the data from the GPS locators will not be available to the public.

“I think it has the potential to reduce no contact or violations,” Kunkel said. “It’s not uncommon for a person to be arrested for a crime of domestic violence, with that comes a mandatory no-contact order that is issued at their initial appearance, and it’s not uncommon for an offender to violate the no-contact order — sometimes, within hours or less, maybe, of getting out of jail.”

Fortmann-Doser said she and Kunkel have discussed putting forth similar proposals for several years.

“It’s something that we’ve wanted in this area in support of victims and victim safety for several years,” Fortmann-Doser said. “His election to sheriff has brought about the opportunity to increase a lot of support networks for victims in Johnson County.”