BEDFORD, Ohio — The ACLU of Ohio and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bedford and its nuisance ordinance, calling the law discriminatory and a violation of the First Amendment.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an African American woman, who is a tenant at the Wolf Cove Apartments in Bedford.
The ACLU of Ohio told News 5 the woman is now facing eviction, because Bedford deemed her a nuisance for calling the police multiple times on another tenant she considered a safety risk at the complex.
Under the ordinance, the city of Bedford charged her with calling the police too often, without merit, and issued her landlord at Wolf Cove a fine, triggering eviction proceedings.
ALCU of Ohio staff attorney Elizabeth Bonham believes nuisance laws in some 40 Ohio jurisdictions are discriminatory, causing evictions and put women dealing with domestic violence at risk.
"It's discriminatory on its face, and as enforced, towards black residents of Bedford, towards women, towards people with disabilities," Bonham said.
"They discourage people from calling the police, they discourage crime victims from reporting, particularly women who are experiencing domestic violence."
Bonham said the ordinance can make domestic violence victims less willing to report abuse, because they are afraid if their landlord is issued a nuisance fine, they could be evicted.
In 2018, the city of Lakewood decided to tailor its nuisance ordinance to not include repeated police calls for domestic violence and criminal stalking.
Lakewood Councilman Tristan Raider told News 5 the amended ordinance is working.
"We want to make sure that we're sending the message loud and clear, if women need help, they should pick up the phone and call the police, and not be worried about being evicted because of that," Raider said.
"Yes we believe, not using the police abusively is important, but we have to make sure that people are not being discouraged from calling the police because of domestic violence situations, situations that could put them in real harms way."
News 5 contacted Bedford City Manager Mike Mallis, who told News 5 the city has not yet completely reviewed the lawsuit.
Mallis said his police department does a thorough review involving his police chief, before a nuisance violation is issued.
Mallis said in this case, police were called to Wolf Cove Apartments 23 times in nine months, but he said his city would be willing to reevaluate its nuisance ordinance in the future.