NEWS AND COMMENT-WETUMPKA, ALABAMA, USA: When I read this story, like any other person who appreciates the work of volunteers carrying out TNR programs, I became angry. Angry at the injustice of it. Angry at the senselessness of it and what appears to me to be an abuse of authority. And what a waste of time and resources.
A couple of police officers attached to the Wetumpka Police arrested Mary Alston, 60, and Beverly Roberts — an 84-year-old, disabled veteran, who were in their cars and in the process of trapping feral cats on public land.
I presume that “public land” refers to land upon which the public can walk and have access to. But they were arrested for trespassing which is not a criminal offence per se. The article is not clear, but they must have been arrested ostensibly for trespassing and nuisance, a form of aggravated trespass but TNR programs are not a nuisance unless the police want to deem them to be a nuisance, but I have never heard of that before.
On the face of it the police were overstepping their area of jurisdiction because this was not a criminal matter. I know I have repeated myself but I’m bemused as to why the police were involved in the first place.
The Wetumpka Police Chief Greg Benton said that his police officers were “within policy”. I take this to mean that they were acting legally which surprises me.
Apparently, there is nothing in local or state law which stops volunteers from feeling cats or operating TNR programs in this area.
Mary Alston was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing government operations. That’s ironic because it looks as though she’s been charged with arguing with police officers. If that’s true this is a self-serving arrest because the police officers caused the alleged misconduct. The reference to “criminal trespass” is also bemusing because feeding and trapping cats is not a criminal matter as I just dated. Neither is trespassing. Trespassing is a civil matter which can be dealt with in the civil courts by the individual who owns the land.
Beverly Roberts was charged with criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct. Once again, the “disorderly conduct” refers to her reaction to the intervention by the police officers. So the police officers caused the alleged disorderly conduct and it wasn’t disorderly because she was simply stating her case and fighting for her rights.
As you can see in the video which is from a body camera on one of the officers, they were handcuffed, and the police officers became angry and said that matters would become ugly unless they obeyed their orders promptly.
It looks like pure bullying to me from a couple of objectionable police officers who overstepped the mark.
The ladies were threatened with jail and then went to jail. Both of them spent several hours in the Elmore County jail. Apparently Roberts passed out because she was so upset (Tuscaloosa News report).
Often, city administrators and county councils work with TNR volunteers to stabilise feral cat numbers. It is a beneficial process for a community. They do good work but this couple of ladies were deemed to be criminals in doing good work. That’s the point that one of them made to one of the police officers but they weren’t listening.
It looks to me like the police officers simply didn’t like elderly ladies trying to improve the lives of feral cats and they had it in for them. And what is also objectionable to me, an observer, is that you can’t talk and discuss matters with police officers in this mood. They demand that their orders are followed promptly and to the letter. There is no discussion. They don’t listen. They are bullies and it doesn’t matter to them whether they are bullying a young man or an elderly lady.
Here is a video from the body cam. Sometimes these external videos stop working but I have no control over them.
Some more articles on TNR are below: