updated 10/12/2011 5:48:11 PM ET 2011-10-12T21:48:11

A district attorney in Kansas said Wednesday that his office will review all misdemeanor domestic violence cases forwarded to him by the Topeka police and determine on a case-by-case basis which ones merit pressing charges.

Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who had announced last month that he would no longer pursue such cases, said in a statement Wednesday that he now has "sole authority" over them after the city of Topeka voted to repeal a local domestic violence ordinance.

"We will do so with less staff, less resources, and severe constraints on our ability to effectively seek justice," Taylor said. "But we will do so willingly to preserve the public safety of all the citizens of Shawnee County."

Story: Kansas' capital city repeals domestic violence law

That comes a day after the mayor and council of Kansas' capital city repealed Topeka's ordinance against domestic violence, a dramatic turn in their attempt to force the county to back away from its earlier decision. Advocates for victims of domestic violence had decried those moves as ones that would hurt public safety and put people who were already scared at greater risk.

Taylor said in September that his decision to stop prosecuting misdemeanors committed inside Topeka was because of budget cuts. He contends that the county commission forced his hand by reducing the budget by 10 percent for 2012, when his office is swamped by felony cases. City leaders argue that Topeka can't afford to replicate county services for domestic abuse victims or rent jail space from the county for suspects.

The city already handles misdemeanor cases of simple assault and battery, and incidents of assault or battery against its police officers. Domestic assault or battery involves a person in the same household, and victims often need additional services or shelter.

Since early September, Topeka has had at least 35 reported incidents of domestic battery or assault, and those cases are not being pursued. As of Friday, 21 people jailed have been released without facing charges, according to Topeka police. Prosecutors and police have refused to discuss details of the cases out of concern for victims' privacy, making it difficult to assess in what situations suspects aren't being prosecuted.

A Topeka police spokeswoman said officers had continued to investigate cases of domestic violence and prepare reports that were being forwarded for prosecution, even after Taylor's announcement last month.

City spokesman Dave Bevens said that interim City Manager Dan Stanley sent Taylor a note Wednesday regarding the cases in hopes of continuing discussions to find a solution. Bevens said Stanley was to meet Thursday with the chairman of the Shawnee County Commission about the issue.

For years, the city and county agreed that the district attorney's office would handle domestic violence prosecutions in the better-funded state courts. City officials also note that the county has more services for victims and runs the jail. The use of a weapon in an assault or battery makes a crime a felony, and would be handled in state court.

The city and county decisions had raised concerns from advocates who see the potential void of prosecutions making situations worse for domestic violence victims, including children.

"It can be dangerous," said Becky Dickinson, director of the Topeka YWCA's Center for Safety and Empowerment. "It can escalate for the victim. If charges aren't filed, they can be released and they can be angry because they were arrested."

Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, called the city council's decision "an unprecedented step backward."

"The message creates a clear and present danger to Topeka citizens. The standoff is unconscionable. It just has to go away." Grover said. "There are communities, in the face of the economic downturn, that are putting more resources into domestic violence issues."

Brian Martin, founder of the Making Memories Foundation, a national domestic violence organization advocating for children, noted that the dispute occurred during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"I believe the decision by Topeka's mayor and city council would have been different if they knew the devastating impacts domestic violence has on children," Martin said. "Studies show that without help up to three-quarters of these children will grow up to repeat the cycle of abuse."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: In cash-strapped Topeka, Kan., domestic abuse not illegal

  1. Transcript of: In cash-strapped Topeka, Kan., domestic abuse not illegal

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now a story some would call belt tightening run wild, and women, victims of domestic violence caught in the middle. Topeka , Kansas , like a lot of places in America , is strapped for cash, but what happened there this week in a fight over a law meant to protect women from domestic violence receives the national spotlight. NBC 's Stephanie Gosk has our report tonight from Topeka .

    STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: In this Midwest town of 127,000, budget cuts are hitting hard. In an extraordinary city council meeting Tuesday night, members voted seven to three to repeal a law making domestic violence a misdemeanor crime. County and city officials were arguing over who should have to pay to prosecute the cases . The district attorney said he no longer had enough money in his budget and that the city had to take over.

    Mr. CHAD TAYLOR (Shawnee County District Attorney): We had to prioritize what cases we'd be prosecuting in our office, would those be homicides, child molestation cases , rape cases or misdemeanor cases , including those of domestic battery.

    GOSK: The city's response, to avoid the cost they just removed the law from the books. But facing local outrage and headlines in the national press, late today the district attorney did an about face. Less than 24 hours after the city council 's vote, he says that prosecutions in domestic violence cases will begin again tomorrow.

    Mr. TAYLOR: We can pick those cases up and file them, and ultimately the wrong doers will be dealt with.

    GOSK: Since early September in Topeka , 35 cases have not been prosecuted, and 18 people arrested have been set free without trial. For domestic violence victim Claudine Dombrowsky , the damage has already been done.

    Ms. CLAUDINE DOMBROWSKY: The fear is the hardest thing to get passed, and then to have the city or the DA or anybody say 'guess what, we're not prosecuting,' oh, my, you are so alone.

    Ms. RITA SMITH: (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence ): I'm fairly certain that there are already women who have stopped calling the police because they know nothing is going to be done.

    GOSK: Most agree in times like these austerity is a necessity, but question the choices made to meet the bottom line. Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, Topeka , Kansas.


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