A 75-year-old woman who needs a cane to get around was jailed in Marietta, Georgia, this week for threatening to report a code enforcement officer to his superiors.
At least that’s what Gloria Walker told WSB-TV’s Matt Johnson. Marietta Police Department Officer Chuck McPhilamy has a different perspective: He claims that Walker was making “terroristic threats.” That’s what she’s been charged with—making terroristic threats.
“Certainly, we aren’t looking to charge someone who is 75 years old who is reaching out for help,” McPhilamy told Johnson, “but it’s also a day and age where we can’t simply ignore someone making threats.”
The dispute between Walker and the code enforcement officer occurred on May 29. Walker, who says she calls code enforcement a lot to complain about her neighbors, got into an argument with the man and said, “I’m getting someone to get you.”
Here’s Walker to Channel 2:
“He said he was an ex-police officer,” Walker told Channel 2 Action News. “I would be stupid to say anything terroristic against an ex-police officer.”
“I said, ‘I told you I’m going to take care of that little matter,'” she said. “And he said, ‘Are you threatening me?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not threatening you. You threaten me all the time.'”
Walker sounds like a cantankerous pain in the ass, and people who narc on their neighbors to code enforcement are often crummy neighbors themselves. But between Walker’s description of events, the police department’s tepid defense of the charges, and the pictures and footage that WSB-TV published, arresting Walker—to say nothing of charging her with terroristic threats—was an abuse of power and a waste of resources.
So she calls code enforcement too often? Put her number on a list and tell dispatchers to wave her off. So she gave a code enforcement officer guff? Let her call his supervisor. The department clearly knows she’s abusing the system. But putting an elderly hobbled woman in jail for being a cranky nuisance is obscene. Did she have a history of affiliating with terrorists or making terroristic threats? What evidence, exactly, does the Marietta Police Department have that shows Walker poses a danger to anyone? My guess is none, because if they had even a shred beyond her cryptic remark—which Walker denies making—we’d have heard it about it by now.
This looks like is a textbook case of trying to teach someone a lesson. Walker likes to push city employees around? Let’s show her the inside of a jail cell and see if that fixes her attitude. Maybe the city plans to ask a judge to put Walker on probation, and to make a prohibition on calling code enforcement be one of her conditions. (If a judge can order an adult defendant to stop smoking cigarettes, surely they can ban calling a city office.)
Regardless of what the city plans to do—I’ll be shocked if they don’t drop the charges before the case goes to court—this is an irresponsible use of police power that suggests a lack of patience and maturity on the part of city employees. You could say the same thing about Walker’s incessant complaining, but she doesn’t have the power to throw people in a police cruiser, haul them to jail, make them post bail, and publish their mugshots online. The standards for the government are and should be higher.