Valley, AL

82-Year-Old Elderly Black Woman Arrested and Told 'Don't Cry' by Valley, AL Officer Because She Can't Afford $77.80 Bill

Zack Love

An 82-year-old elderly woman from Valley, Alabama was arrested after "failing to pay" her delinquent trash bill. Many people are outraged that a small town would arrest a little old lady, and make her go to court over something so trivial. Apparently, they are hurting for trash revenue in Valley, Alabama.

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"Don't Cry in Alabama"Photo byShane Rounce on Unsplash (modified)

An elderly black woman that has lived at the same house for 30 years, is arrested because she could not pay her trash bill. She is handcuffed, and taken to a jail cell for her "crime" of not paying $77.80.

The whole situation sounds like the town of Mayberry, and Barney Fife caught himself a "criminal."

Sadly, this all really happened in a small town in Alabama, and this isn't a joke. The story is shared below.

82-Year-Old Black Woman in Valley, AL Arrested for "Failure to Pay-Trash" Citation

NBC News reported that Martha Louis Menefield was arrested on Sunday, 27 November 2022 for "failing to pay her delinquent trash bill" by two Valley officers.

She was issued a citation in August by "city code enforcement officers," for "failing to pay for trash services in the months of June, July, and August."

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Martha Menefield’s house, Valley, ALPhoto byLee Hedgepeth/CBS 42 News

According to CBS 42 News, she saw them pull up in front of her home in a patrol car on Sunday, and witnessed one white and one black officer approach her front door. One of the officers informed her that they were there to arrest her for "failure to pay her trash bill." In that moment, Ms. Menefield thought they were joking, and she laughed.

She asked, "You're not kidding?"

She thought the bill for $77.80 had already been paid. They told her it had not been paid, and then they handcuffed her.

She recalled that the handcuffs felt heavy on her wrists, and her eyes started to swell up with tears.

She then asked one of the officers, “How would you feel if they came and arrested your grandmama?”

The officer didn't answer her question.

She said:

“I’m just happy my grandkids weren’t here to see that,” Ms. Menefield said,as her voice was shaking. “That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it’s been bothering me.” -Martha Louis Menefield (Source: CBS 42 News)

CBS 42 News reported that after she was handcuffed, one of the officers tapped Ms. Menefield on the back, and said, "Don't cry, Ms. Martha." She remembered this very clearly as he whispered this to her.

Ms. Menefield felt that it was "unjust and unnecessary" for the officers to come to her home and arrest her.

She said:

“I was upset because I didn’t know why they would come and arrest me.” -Martha Louis Menefield (Source: CBS 42 News)

Ms. Menefield was placed in a jail cell.

She said:

“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.” -Martha Louis Menefield (Source: CBS 42 News)

She was eventually released on bond. After the ordeal, Ms. Benefield has done some soul-searching.

She told CBS 42 News:

“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.”

Valley Police Chief Mike Reynolds Released a Press Release

The Valley Police Chief Mike Reynolds released a press release on Facebook regarding Martha Louis Menefield's arrest.

The Valley Police official statement by Chief Reynolds on Facebook reads:

"On November 27, 2022, officers of the Valley Police Department arrested Martha Louis Menefield, 82 years old of Valley, on the charge of Failure to Pay-Trash. She was processed at the Valley Police Department and then released on bond.
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. 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.
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.

Mike Reynolds
Chief of Police
Valley Police"

Should Valley Residents Be Arrested for Being Unable to Pay for Trash Services?

The lingering question after reading about Ms. Menefield's situation is: "Should Valley residents be arrested for something so little?"

City officials should be ashamed of how they treated Ms. Benefield. The daughter of Ms. Menefield, Neketti Tucker, says "failure to pay a trash bill should never be considered a crime."

She said:

“This isn’t a criminal act,” Tucker said. “This is civil, if anything.” -Neketti Tucker (Source: CBS 42 News)

Neketti Tucker also added that multiple people have tried to pay her mother's trash bill, and city staff has told them that they can't do that.

Final Thoughts

As an Alabama resident, this story makes me sick to my stomach. I personally live in the largest and fastest-growing city in the state--Huntsville, and I don't believe our city would ever do something like this to an elderly woman that is unable to pay her trash bill.

Residents that are unable to pay should be given options, including assistance if they cannot pay their trash bill.

This town needs to have a better solution for residents with low income and the elderly, and taxpayers should not stand for their public servants (police officers) taking 82-year-old ladies to jail cells for failure to pay trash bills.

Many people need to apologize to Ms. Menefield and assure her this will not happen again, starting with the police chief.

So..."Don't cry" if your grandma gets arrested in Alabama for not paying her trash bill.

I know there are plenty of good officers out there that would have gladly paid her bill so it would have never come down to handcuffing her.

It's just shameful.

If you think the treatment of this elderly woman was appalling, please share this story on social media, and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Sources

City of Valley Alabama - City Hall. Press Release. 29 November 2022.

Hedgepeth, Lee. "‘You ought to be ashamed’: 82-year-old Alabama woman says arrest over $77 trash bill was unjust, unnecessary." CBS 42 News. 1 December 2022.

Planas, Antonio. "82-year-old Alabama woman arrested after she failed to pay the trash bill, police say." NBC News. 1 December 2022.

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Zack covers interesting and inspiring news stories that impact local communities. He has a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

Huntsville, AL
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