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82 Year Old & Trash Bill Arrest

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Timothy: So, I can just see it, we need to live this and somebody comes to visit or it gets down to the rumor mill to the local police who are King James* only and they didn’t like me anyway and so, oh guess what? When he walks in the room everybody stands up. So, it gets perverted.  * Enumclaw Police, Enumclaw Washington

82 Year Old Trash Bill Arrest

Ecclesiastes 2:12
Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly.

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82 Year Old & Trash Bill Arrest

Background Information

82-Year-Old Woman Detained After Failing to Make $77 Trash Payment

Every day, we receive all kinds of bills and invoices in the mail. Some days, we open those bills, pay them, and move on. On other days, however, we may put those bills to the side and put out other fires in our personal and professional lives. Even if those bills end up being late, the ultimate penalty usually ends up being a late fee or some other financial penalty.

This wasn?t the case for an 82-year-old woman in Alabama.

After failing to pay a late $77 trash bill, this 82-year-old woman had an unexpected visit from the local police. Her experience—including police officers handcuffing her and taking her from her home—sparked outrage on the internet. The ordeal is sparking discussion of policing, personal responsibility, and how far the justice system should go to enforce laws that are on the books.

The Arrest

Marth Menefield is an 82-year-old resident of Valley, Alabama. Valley is a town of around 10,000 people. It is located on the Alabama-Georgia border and is about a one-hour drive from Birmingham. Menefield spent her early years in West Point, Alabama (which is located in the northern part of the state).

For thirty years, Menefield has lived in her Valley home.

On November 27, 2022, Menefield opened the door to her home. On her doorstep were two members of the Valley Police Department (their names have not been disclosed). One of the officers was white and another officer was Black. As you can see in the video accompanying Menefield?s arrest, the officers confirmed that they were speaking with Menefield. After doing so, the officers told Menefield that they were serving a warrant. They hadn?t yet disclosed that they were doing so because she hadn?t paid her $77 trash bill.

Upon hearing that the officers were serving a warrant, Menefield thought they were joking. She asked why she was being served a warrant. An officer responded by stating that she hadn?t paid her trash bill and that he wasn?t joking. Just before he was about to handcuff Menefield, the officer explained that she should have received a call from Valley?s Code Enforcement division about one month before the arrest. The officer said that Code Enforcement should have explained that she needed to pay her trash bill. Menefield responded by stating that her daughter (Neketti Tucker) takes care of her bills. Tucker currently lives in Georgia. Because the bill had not yet been paid, the officer said that Menefield had to leave her home and come to the police station.

Ultimately, Menefield expressed her surprise at the news. Before handcuffing her, the officer also said that Menefield would have to pay $285 to leave the police department. If she wasn?t able to cough up that amount, she would then be taken to the county jail. She then asked the officers whether they were going to handcuff her. An officer said yes, began to handcuff Menefield, and said, ?I?m so sorry, but the law is the law.? She asked the officers to let her put a sweater on before leaving her home (since she was cold). The officers didn?t uncuff her to let her do so. Instead, they put the sweater over her shoulders, tied it to her body, and then escorted her to the officers? vehicle.

According to a press release posted by Valley Police Chief Mike Reynolds, Menefield was taken and processed at the Valley Police Department. She was later released on bond. Menefield later spoke with Nextar Media Wire, stating that ?I?m just happy my grandkids weren?t here to see that. That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it?s been bothering me.?

The Response to Menefield’s Arrest

Menefield?s arrest sparked significant anger and outcry on social media channels. Valley Police Department?s press release attracted around 6,100 comments and 2,200 shares. Most of the comments are negative.

For instance, one Facebook comment says, ?Without government, who would kidnap an 82 year old for forgetting to pay her trash bill for a couple months? God forbid some of your officers pool together the less than $100 to pay it. I’m sure it cost way more than that in police resources to arrest her.? Another Facebook comment expressed disgust toward the situation. ?So we’ve reverted back to the days of debtors prison?? it said. ?This is shameful Valley, absolutely shameful. Have you not noticed that times have been tight for a lot of people lately? Senior adults are typically on a fixed income. Why did no one work with her on ways to catch up??

While there has been a significant outcry against Menefield?s arrest, the Valley Police Department says that the arrest was justified. As alleged in the press release, Menefield has had her power intermittently suspended for decades. Specifically, the Environmental Services department cited 22 separate incidents where Menfield had services suspended or revoked. Within the past two years, Menefield has had her trash services suspended three times for non-payment.

As further described in the press release, Valley Code Enforcement Officers were already communicating with Menefield before her arrest. Specifically, the press release says that Menefield hadn?t been paying for trash services in June, July, and August 2022. When this occurred, Code Enforcement tried to contact Menefield several times. Specifically, Code Enforcement tried calling her and visiting her residence. When Code Enforcement couldn’t get in touch with Menefield, Code Enforcement representatives left a hanger on her door. The hanger, among other things, contained contact information that Menefield could use to resolve the situation.

Because the issue wasn?t resolved, Code Enforcement issued a citation in August 2022. The citation related to non-payment for trash services that occurred in three months (June, July, and August). The press release also says that the citation indicated that Menefield needed to appear in court before September 7, 2022. When she did not appear in court by that date, the court issued an arrest warrant.

Continuing Debate Over the Arrest

Much of the discussion about Menefield?s arrest centers on why Valley Police Department officers had to detain her over a seemingly-benign offense (a $77 trash bill). Critics of the arrest argue that the arrest shouldn?t have occurred due to Menefield?s age and the fact that her ?offense? was a late payment. Neketti Tucker, Menefield?s daughter, argued that ?This isn?t a criminal act. This is civil, if anything.?

On the other hand, the Valley Police Department argues that it had no choice but to proceed with the arrest. According to its press release, Valley police officers can use discretion in certain arrests, but not this one. It states that once an arrest warrant is issued by a court and signed by a magistrate, Valley police officers cannot exercise discretion when arresting the subject of the warrant.

Regardless of the police department?s discretion in the matter, Menefield?s arrest has galvanized charitable social media users. Several Facebook users volunteered to pay Menefield?s trash bill. That said, according to Tucker, those individuals had their offers rejected by Valley city officials.

While both Menefield and the Valley police department have their viewpoints on the arrest, the story has spread beyond the Alabama borders. The public at large continues to debate whether the arrest was justified and how law enforcement should exercise its power with more vulnerable members of the community.

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