Domestic violence law repealed in Topeka, Ks., to save money

The Kansas City StarOctober 12, 2011 

TOPEKA — The Topeka City Council on Tuesday voted to repeal the city’s law against misdemeanor domestic battery, the latest in a budget battle that has freed about 30 abuse suspects from charges.

One of the offenders was even arrested and released twice since the brouhaha broke out Sept. 8.

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.

The matter has gotten Topeka national attention — and scorn.

“I absolutely do not understand it,” Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said after the vote. “It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”

Victim advocates fear more such drastic moves as cities and counties face tight budgets at a time when advocates say domestic violence is increasing with the stress of economic hard times.

“I just hope it doesn’t spread,” said Sharon Katz, executive director of Safehome in Johnson County. “There needs to be a higher priority for people who are going to start getting killed.”

At the council meeting, several speakers, including some council members, attacked repealing the city law if only for the message that sends.

Claudine Dombrowski of Topeka threw dice at the podium. That’s what the council is doing with people’s lives, she told them.

She asked: What if the city repealed their law and Taylor still does not prosecute the crime?

“What a way to honor victims and survivors on the 24th anniversary of domestic violence survivors month,” she said.

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