Policeman hooks up 70 year old woman over dry lawn.
Orem woman is jailed for dry yard
She says officer 'brutally abused me'; he is placed on paid leave
By Sara Israelsen and Jens Dana
Deseret Morning News
OREM — An Orem police officer is on paid leave after he handcuffed, fingerprinted and booked into jail a 70-year-old woman in a squabble over her lawn.
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning NewsThe home and yard of Betty Perry, who said she couldn't afford to water the grass. Perry said the officer who jailed her over the brown grass is "a menace to society." Betty Perry opened her door Friday at 9 a.m. to find an officer from the Orem Neighborhood Preservation Unit asking about the scruffy, brown grass in her front yard.
When she said she couldn't afford to water her lawn at 1568 S. 800 East the officer started to write her a ticket for violating the city's nuisance ordinance. The ordinance requires residents to keep a maintained, live yard.
Perry didn't want to give her name, which could be obtained through property records, and asked to go back inside to call her son. As she tried to leave, the officer grabbed her arm and slapped on the first handcuff.
In the scuffle, Perry tripped on the step and fell into the door frame, scraping her nose and elbows and leaving behind spots of blood on the door, and on her shirt and pants, said Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards. Perry said the officer struck her in the face with the cuffs while he was restraining her.
"He's just trying to cover his tracks," she said late Thursday night. "He brutally abused me ... and for what? Because I wouldn't give him my name?"
As the officer applied the handcuffs, Perry began to protest.
"What are you doing? What's going on? Talk to me?" she said. But the officer didn't respond to her questions.
As she went down, she tucked her hands under her stomach to keep from being handcuffed, which meant the officer had to pull her hands out, causing more scrapes, according to Edwards.
"I don't think anybody should be treated like that," she told reporters as she pointed to black and blue marks on her wrists from the handcuffs. "I've never even been stopped (by police) before, and that's the funny thing."
Perry said the officer called for backup, then put her in a hot police car still wearing the handcuffs.
"I couldn't believe what went on, it was so bizarre," she said. "I wasn't even prepared for it. Once you're in handcuffs, you can't do anything."
She was taken to the Orem Jail holding cell, where she sat for more than 30 minutes before being released and driven home by another officer, Edwards said.
As the officer drove her home, Perry said, he tried to reassure her.
"He said, 'I want you to try to get some rest and try to put this behind you. We're going to look into this,'" she said.
She was only released when police administrators learned about the situation.
"The director said, 'I want her out of my jail now,"' Edwards said, quoting his boss, Mike Larsen. "Clearly there were other options available. (The officer) should have taken those."
The officer was sent home Friday on paid administrative leave, and the situation will be investigated by the department, Edwards said. Perry said she isn't sure if she'll pursue legal action. But she said she thinks the officer, whose name she couldn't remember, shouldn't be put back on duty.
"He's a menace to society," she said. "He shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun."
Perry is the only person in Orem to be arrested for a nuisance violation, Edwards said. No citations were issued, but that doesn't mean they won't be.
"Just because we made a tactical error doesn't mean she's absolved from all wrongdoing," Edwards said. "We just admit that on our part we could have handled things differently."
Orem City Attorney Paul Johnson said although a dead lawn is grounds for arrest, based on Orem's nuisance ordinance, it's quite uncommon.
Taylor Wilson, KSL-TV Channel 5Betty Perry was handcuffed and jailed after a scuffle with an Orem police officer. "They only get to that point when they've worked with the people for a long time," he said. "Usually they send a letter and contact people individually. They give the people time to come into compliance. If they don't come into compliance, then they give a citation."
Officers haven't had any previous interaction with Perry, based on a police database, Edwards said.
The officer, whom police refused to name because of the open investigation, has been with the department nearly seven years. He was in uniform and driving a marked police truck Friday morning.
"It's a sad situation," Edwards said. "I feel bad for her, I feel bad for the officer. It was a situation that just got out of hand. We'll admit to our shortcoming, and we'll do better in the future."
Orem Mayor Jerry Washburn was informed about the situation by the media and said he was quite surprised.
"Each officer really prides himself in working with people and trying to solve problems rather than exacerbate problems," Washburn said. "This sounds really uncharacteristic."
It was completely unexpected for Perry as well.
"I didn't know you had to go to jail. Everything's changed about the yards and stuff. I was just hoping I could get someone to help me, that's all."
Perry said she's been requesting yard help from neighbors, church groups, Boy Scout groups and even the city, but has been ignored, she said. She said she tries to keep the weeds at bay but doesn't want to pay for water that will feed the weeds. In the meantime, she said she'll be more wary the next time a police officer knocks on her door.
"If the policeman tells you to stand on your head, do it," she said. "They're the boss; they're the law."