To Ease Budget Crunch, Topeka, Kan. Repeals Domestic Violence Law

Oct 12, 2011
Originally published on October 12, 2011 1:22 pm

A budget battle between the city of Topeka, Kan. and Shawnee County has led to the repeal of the city's domestic violence law and freed about 30 people charged with abuse.

Here's how the Kansas City Star tells the story:

It started when Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced that a 10 percent budget cut would force him to end his office's prosecution of misdemeanor cases, almost half of which last year were domestic battery cases.

With that, Taylor stopped prosecuting the cases and left them to the city. But city officials balked at the cost.

Tuesday's 7-3 vote to eliminate the local domestic violence law was designed to force Taylor to prosecute the cases because they would remain a crime under state law.

Before the city council voted, it heard from victims of domestic abuse. The New York Times reports that one of them told the council by repealing the law, they were failing to protect them. The Times also reports that advocates against domestic violence were outraged.

"To have public officials pointing fingers while victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out who will protect them is just stunning," Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence told the Times.

Today, as the dust settled on the vote, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the interim city manager Dan Stanley said the vote yesterday was "very sober and difficult." But that he had reached out to the district attorney to reach an agreement.

Stanley, reported the Capital-Journal, said now that the city has left no ambiguity as to who is responsible for prosecuting domestic abuse cases, he expects the negotiations would get "real serious real fast."

The Washington Post takes the news from a different angle. For a city to claim not prosecuting domestic abuse cases is a cost-cutting measure is folly, the paper reports. A lot of the costs associated with domestic abuse cases have nothing to do with courts.

They include things like health-care costs to treat the victim, "days of paid work lost because of intimate partner violence," and "loss in earnings."

The Kansas City Star reports that of those 30 abuse suspects released, one of them was arrested and released twice because of the budget impasse.

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