Two police officers from the City of Valley, Alabama, arrested 82-year-old Martha Menefield at her home Sunday for failure to pay a $77 trash bill.
The officers handcuffed Ms. Menefield, a Black woman who told a reporter Thursday that the cuffs were heavy. One of the officers told her not to cry as they put her in the back of their squad car.
“I’m just happy my grandkids weren’t here to see that,” Ms. Menefield said tearfully. “That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it’s been bothering me.”
Valley police chief Mike Reynolds defended the arrest, saying in a Facebook post that the officers were required to enforce the arrest warrant after Ms. Menefield did not appear in court in response to a citation for non-payment of trash services.
Ms. Menefield, who has lived in the same house for nearly 30 years, said she thought the bill had been paid and she never received a notice to appear in court. If her trash bill wasn’t paid, she said, they should have suspended her trash pickup. Arresting her, she said, was unjust and unnecessary.
Commenters on Facebook agreed, expressing outrage about Ms. Menefield’s arrest. One commentor wrote: “That is a seriously disgusting and hateful thing to do. What a shame officials think that this is okay.”
Ms. Menefield’s daughter, Neketti Tucker, told WIAT that failure to pay a trash bill should never be considered a crime. “This isn’t a criminal act,” she said, adding that multiple people have tried to pay her mother’s bill but staff have not allowed them to do so.
Ms. Menefield was taken to the Valley Police Department and placed in a small cell for processing. “I was in a little cage-like thing at the police station,” she said. “And I said ‘Y’all put me in this cage? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.'”