City of Columbus settles 2016 lawsuit over policy in domestic vi - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

City of Columbus settles 2016 lawsuit over policy in domestic violence cases

(Source: WTVM) (Source: WTVM)

(AP/WTVM) A judge has approved a class action settlement of a federal lawsuit against the City of Columbus.

The lawsuit stemming from allegations the city collects a fee from alleged victims of domestic violence who decline to participate in the prosecution of their alleged abusers.

The lawsuit initially filed in October 2016 said that when Cleopatra Harrison called 911 to report abuse, Columbus police officers took her statement, observed her injuries, arrested her boyfriend and told her to appear in court.

The lawsuit said that when Harrison told the local judge she didn't want to press charges, he told her she owed the city of Columbus $150.

This lawsuit was filed against the city, Recorder's Court Judge Michael Cielinski, Sheriff John Darr, Police Chief Ricky Boren and police officer Michael Lincoln.

This new change coming right in the middle of National Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Lindsey Reis, Executive Director at Hope Harbour, a shelter for domestic violence victims says it's a positive change.

"I think it will help some people knowing that if they do go up [to court] and they change their mind. It gives us a chance to advocate for them, and to work with them to see what services are available. But, I think it takes away some of that pressure about getting re-victimized again if they are fined,” said Hope Harbour Executive Director, Lindsey Reis.

Reis also says it is hard for some victims to speak out.

"Each individual woman is different on why they don't want to press charges, for a lot of reasons. It's dangerous for some of them, you never know what that abuser has said to them, like if you press charges, or if I'm arrested, I'll come back and I'll kill you. They are very real when they say that, so it is very dangerous the victims,” said Reis.

The Southern Center for Human Rights said the settlement approved Wednesday says the court will stop charging victim fees on behalf of the city, and anyone who paid those fees will receive reimbursement and compensation.

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