Oklahoma Advocates Concerned As Topeka Decriminalizes Domestic Abuse

Tuesday, October 11th 2011, 11:21 pm
By: News 9

Michael Konopasek, News 9

MISWEST CITY, Oklahoma -- City leaders in Topeka, Kansas, have repealed an ordinance that makes domestic violence a crime Tuesday night. All as a way to save money on prosecuting cases.

The proposed repeal is gaining attention nationwide, which has News 9 taking a look at what goes into a domestic violence investigation in the metro and the social and economic costs associated with it.

This past Saturday, a case of domestic violence turned into a murder suicide in Midwest City. Police say that event is a grim reminder of why they have a zero tolerance policy on the crime, no matter the economic cost.

10/10/2011 Related Story: MWC Murder/Suicide Raises Concerns Over Domestic Violence

Det. Sgt. Wade Ramsey works on domestic violence and sex crimes. He says a strong coordinated approach between the city and county is necessary. Ramsey says the first arrest results in a municipal court date. State charges are filed on the second offense.

"If there is injury, an arrest is usually made at that point," Ramsey said.

Ramsey estimates a typical domestic violence investigation will take several officers about 12 hours of police work.

But, prosecuting the case takes more time and money, which is the motivation for leaders in Topeka to consider not prosecuting.

"My response was, you've got to be kidding me," said YWCA CEO Janet Peery. "It's really the opposite direction that we need to go."

Peery says turning a blind eye on violence is short-sighted and will actually hurt the economy long-term.

The YWCA reports via the CDC that 79 million paid work days are lost every year due to domestic violence, which costs employers about $800 million. The organization also says $4.1 million are dished out each year on mental health and medical costs.

"That's a huge economic impact, and if we just ignore it, those numbers and the deaths that we are now experiencing will continue to grow," Peery said.

The YWCA also says about 80 percent of women who are in prison have been victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, which is another cost.

No estimates from Topeka have been issued on how much money could possibly be saved by not prosecuting the crime.