SHADMIA'S WORLD

Just Another Guy with Opinions

70-year-old Woman Arrested for Brown Lawn

Posted by shadmia on September 19, 2007

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Betty Perry is a 70-year-old widow and great grandmother living in Orem, Utah. She was arrested July 6, 2007. During the arrest, which included handcuffing the senior citizen, Perry’s nose was cut open and her knees and hands were scraped. She was then thrown in jail, where she remained for over an hour before being released. Her crime: Failure to water her lawn and resisting arrest. Ms Perry said she was “distraught” after the incident.

Betty Perry says, “I never thought they would ever do anything like that to a person that is 70 years old. I’ve never bothered anybody, I’ve never hurt anybody.”

Perry’s water had been turned off for about nine months, at her request, although she was living at the house at the time of the arrest. Orem has a shut-off policy for people who are away for extended periods. When Betty Perry heard a knock at her door and saw a police officer standing outside, she never imagined she would end up in jail. That’s what happened, though, when the officer tried enforcing Orem’s nuisance ordinance against neglected yards.

“I didn’t want to tell him anything until I talked to a lawyer or my son. I wanted to see what he’d tell me to do. I’ve never had any experience before with the law, ever in my life,” she said.

As the enforcement officer started writing her a ticket, she tried going back in her house. That’s when the officer tried to handcuff her for refusing to give her name and resisting the ticket. She tripped on the steps, scraping up her nose and elbows, leaving blood on her door, her porch and her clothes. Perry was handcuffed, fingerprinted and put in a jail cell, where she sat for more than an hour.

“I laid down in there. I never seen the inside of a jail before. I didn’t know how it looked, I was really scared,” she says.

When police brass learned what happened, she was immediately released. Orem police spokesman Lt. Doug Edwards said, “Every officer in his career has situations they find themselves getting into, at the end of it they scratch their head and say, ‘gosh, how did this happen?’ Today, I think, was one of those days. Clearly there were some other options available.”

The arresting officer, James Flygare, of the police’s Neighborhood Preservation Unit, was sent home for the day and briefly placed on paid administrative leave. An investigation was conducted by the Utah Department of Public Safety, which ultimately cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. The review by the state was done at the request of Orem Police Department of Public Safety Director Mike Larsen.

“Officer (Jim) Flygare did not commit the offense of assault during the arrest of Ms. (Betty) Perry. His actions were necessary to gain physical control of Ms. Perry and to prevent escalation of the incident,” according to the report released by Utah DPS.

However, attorney Gloria Allred, who has been talking with Perry about her legal options regarding the incident, said she doesn’t believe the review was fair. “We do not see this as an independent investigation,” Allred told the Deseret Morning News. “We feel that it is clearly biased against Betty, and it appears to us that law enforcement is out to get Betty, a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was simply trying to lead a quiet life.” Allred would not say whether she and Perry were considering a lawsuit against the city over the incident.

Flygare has returned to his normal duties with the Neighborhood Preservation Unit, the department’s blight and code enforcement division, Orem police Lt. Doug Edwards said. He said “appropriate supervisory actions have been taken” but would not elaborate on those actions.

“Officer James Flygare is a valued member of our department and has been recognized by the community for his valor and outstanding service to the public,” Edwards said in a press release. Investigators wrote that Flygare has been an officer in the Orem department for seven years and worked for the Pleasant Grove Police Department about four years before joining the Orem police.

In the meantime Betty Perry appeared in court to plead not guilty to the charges against her. She was accompanied by Gloria Allred who waved handcuffs for the cameras outside court:

“I ask the citizens of Orem: How many of you would like to have your great-grandmother taken from her home with bruises and blood and placed in handcuffs for failing to water her lawn?” attorney Gloria Allred said. “Let’s bring sanity back to law enforcement,” she said.

The mayor and City Council apologized, and the police department said the situation could have been handled differently. But the city attorney still is pressing charges, and Perry is due back in court next month.

 

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