The woman, Martha Louis Menefield, said police told her "not to cry" as they were arresting her.
An 82-year-old woman in Valley, Alabama was arrested on November 27 after she reportedly failed to pay her trash bill amounting to $77.80.
According to a statement from Valley Police Chief Mike Reynolds, Martha Louis Menefield was arrested “on the charge of Failure to Pay-Trash.”
Menefield reportedly received a citation in August for failing to pay for her trash services in June, July, and August. The statement also declares that Valley Code Enforcement attempted multiple times to call Menefield, and later tried to get in contact with her in person at her home.
When their attempts apparently failed, they left a door hanger with information including the reason for the visit and a number to call.
The citation also informed Menefield that she was due to appear in court on Sept. 7, 2022. When she did not appear in court, a warrant for Failure to Pay-Trash was issued.
As CBS42 reports, Menefield was so surprised by the arrival of police she initially thought the situation was some sort of joke.
When it became clear to her that she really was being arrested over the unpaid trash bill, she asked one of the officers, “You’re not kidding?” They were not. Menefield, however, said she thought the bill had been paid, “but they said it hadn’t.”
The officers informed Menefield that they needed to handcuff her; she put her hands behind her back. They then told her that she could hold her hands out in front of her, and she did as she was asked. “And the cuffs,” she said, “They’re so heavy.”
Menefield said that one of the officers then told her not to cry, prompting her to ask him, “How would you feel if they came and arrested your grandmama?”
The officer didn’t respond.
“I’m just happy my grandkids weren’t here to see that,” she told CBS42. “That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it’s been bothering me.”
According to Valley Police, Menefield has had her trash services suspended three times in the past two years for non-payment, and additional records dating back to 2006 show at least 22 other incidents of suspensions and revocation of services.
“While our officers can use their discretionary judgment on certain matters,” the police statement reads, “the enforcement of an arrest warrant issued by the court and signed by a magistrate, is not one of them. Ms. Menefield was treated respectfully by our officers in the performance of their duties and was released on a bond as prescribed by the violation.”
Menefield claimed that she never received a notice to appear in court, and argued that if her bills hadn’t been paid, her trash bins should have simply been taken away and her service suspended. She said she felt the arrest was unjust and unnecessary.
“I was upset because I didn’t know why they would come and arrest me,” Menefield said.
After her arrest, Menefield was taken to the Valley Jail, and though she didn’t remain there long, she told CBS42, “I was in a little cage-like thing at the police station. And I said, ‘Y’all put me in this cage? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
Her daughter, Neketti Tucker, meanwhile said that the unpaid bills should have never been considered a crime in the first place.
“This isn’t a criminal act,” Tucker said. “This is civil, if anything.”
Tucker also said that several family members have since tried to pay Menefield’s bills — and the Valley Code Enforcement has told them they can’t.
The entire incident has also had a lasting impact on Menefield, a religious Southerner who has lived in the same house for 30 years and spent most of her life as a caretaker, either for the elderly or children.
“I’ve been questioning God a little bit,” she said. “I guess ’cause I’ve been so upset. I had a daycare here for eight years, and I’ve been asking the Lord. I say ‘Why did this happen to me as much as I’ve done for people, Lord? I’ve paid my tithes every Sunday. I ushered at church. I was just questioning. Something’s just not right.”
After this strange bit of news from Alabama, learn about the bill passed by Alabama lawmakers allowing them to chemically castrate sex offenders as part of their parole. Also, read about the police raid on an illegal Alabama winery — that was operating out of a sewage facility.