At first, Martha Menefield thought that police officers coming to arrest her on Sunday was a joke. She laughed it off.
Then the 82-year-old was put in handcuffs and marched off to jail in Valley, Alabama — because her trash disposal bill of $77.80 was not paid.
Amid her humiliation, she recalled what one officer said, according to WIAT-TV.
“’Don’t cry, Ms. Martha.’ … He kind of whispered it to me: ‘Don’t cry.’”
Menefield said she thought the bill was paid; the officers said it was not. And so, she was arrested.
“And the cuffs,” she said, holding back tears. “They’re so heavy.”
She recounted her reply to the officer who told her not to cry: “How would you feel if they came and arrested your grandmama?”
“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.’”
“I’m just happy my grandkids weren’t here to see that,” Menefield said. “That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it’s been bothering me.”
“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.”
In a Facebook post, Valley Police Chief Mark Reynolds said police were only following the rules when they arrested Menefield.
“City of Valley Code Enforcement Officers issued Ms. Menefield a citation in August of 2022 for non-payment for trash services for the months of June, July, and August. Prior to issuing the citation, Code Enforcement tried to call Ms. Menefield several times and attempted to contact her in person at her residence,” he wrote.
“When contact could not be made, a door hanger was left at her residence. The hanger contained information on the reason for the visit and a name and contact phone number for her to call. The citation advised Ms. Menefield that she was to appear in court on September 7, 2022, in reference to this case. A warrant for Failure to Pay-Trash was issued when she did not appear in court.
“According to the Environmental Services Ms. Menefield has had her trash services suspended three times in the past two years for non-payment and records indicate that there have been over twenty-two incidents of suspensions and revocation of services since 2006,” Reynolds wrote.
“While our officers can use their discretionary judgment on certain matters, 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.”
Since her arrest, local residents have offered to help Menefield pay the overdue fees, according to WRBL-TV.
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