You might think if you were the police chief of Wetumpka, Alabama, you’d be embarrassed to learn your officers arrested and cuffed two women — one of them 85 years old — for the alleged crime of managing a cat colony.
Heck, you might be outright mortified that the public saw a video of that outrageous arrest, with your officers laughing about “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies” after treating the aforementioned ladies like hardened criminals instead of good local people you’re sworn to protect and serve.
Lastly, you might be furious at your officers for demonstrating abysmal judgment by escalating a situation instead of keeping the peace.
Especially if video of the incident proceeded to go viral, drawing widespread mockery and condemnation of your entire police department
But if you’re Wetumpka Police Chief Greg Benton, apparently none of those things would occur to you.
Instead of apologizing to his community for traumatizing two women doing trap, neuter return (TNR) work in a public park, Benton is doubling down.
Benton told the Montgomery Advertiser that Mary Alston, 60, and Beverly Roberts, 85, were exacerbating a “nuisance” by spending their own money to spay/neuter strays, working with local shelters to find homes for them, and managing a stray cat colony that others were content to ignore.
Benton says the women were warned that they were “trespassing” in a public park — built and maintained with their tax dollars — and were warned not to feed the cats.
The women were arrested on June 25, but the media and public are just now learning the details because police pushed back on local media freedom of information requests for copies of the body camera footage.
Apparently Benton does not understand the distinction between tossing treats at strays and managing a colony at personal expense to reduce the stray population and get the cats adopted. Or maybe he’s one of those guys who thinks the solution is to kill the cats.
Either way, he’s chosen to ignore policing best practices, disregarding time-honored — and evidence-supported — protocols of community policing by endorsing the sort of behavior his officers engaged in.
Instead of charging into a public park, practically screaming “I am the law!” and gleefully cuffing two women while telling them “You’re too old to be acting this way,” a minimally-trained, minimally decent rookie cop almost anywhere else in America would immediately understand Alston and Roberts are not criminals.
That cop would understand the women are part of the community, they have to live with these people, and the productive thing would be to get the police chief, animal control officer, colony managers and local shelter supervisors together, so they can figure out how to support each other and combine their resources to humanely manage local cat colonies.
Instead, we have police moving forward with misdemeanor charges against the women. They’re both charged with criminal trespassing, while Alston faces an additional count of interfering with government operations, and Roberts faces a disorderly conduct charge.
Their attorney, Terry Luck, told the Advertiser that he believes the charges are baseless. Alston and Roberts were originally scheduled for an Oct. 20 trial, but it’s been postponed due to scheduling conflicts. A new date hasn’t been set yet.