Funding and Domestic Violence

Funding and Domestic Violence October 13, 2011

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about Topeka, Kansas no longer prosecuting domestic violence due to budget problems. Here’s a report on the situation from an NBC station:

Cash-strapped Topeka, Kansas, has decided to stop prosecuting domestic violence casses in order to save money.

The City Council announced the proposal Oct. 4, after the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office announced it could no longer prosecute misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases. The city’s maneuver may even require repealing the part of the city code that bans domestic battery. Mayor Bill Bunten told the Topeka Capital-Journal city officials take domestic violence seriously, and it would be “dead wrong” to assume offenders won’t be prosecuted. But the dispute is over who would pay for it, he said.

Shawnee County has already dropped 30 domestic violence cases since it stopped prosecuting the crime on Sept. 8. Some 16 people have been arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery charges and then released after charges were not filed.

County District Attorney Chad Taylor has reportedly offered to review all misdemeanor cases filed in Topeka for potential prosecution, including those now handled by the city’s municipal court, in exchange for a one-time payment of $350,000 from the city.

All of this is due, apparently, to a 10% budget cut. The most disturbing thing about this for me is the misplaced priorities. Having to prioritize what crimes are prosecuted is a daily function for law enforcement, but this should be a top priority, not an expendable one. This is real victimization, as opposed to marijuana possession. Given that there are nearly a million arrests a year in this country for possession alone, with no victim whatsoever, that should be very low on the priority list.

On a larger level, this is the kind of thing that everyone should agree on. Even if you’re a Tea Party type who wants government to do very little, law enforcement is one of the most basic functions of government. And protecting people against the violence of others is the most important aspect of law enforcement. What makes this all much worse is, again, the lack of priorities. We’ve got billions in federal grants going to local law enforcement so they can purchase M-16s and armored personnel carriers, yet we’re slashing revenue sharing at the state level and forcing cities to lay off more officers that could be there to police street crime. We’re spending a fortune to integrate local law enforcement with homeland security, yet we barely fund indigent defense programs and spend tens of billions of dollars on the failed war on drugs to ruin lives and break up families. It’s perverse.

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