State Watch

Alabama sheriff’s office draws backlash over Christmas tree decorated with ‘thugshots’

Mobile County Sheriff's Office

A sheriff’s office in Mobile, Ala., drew backlash from civil rights groups and from people online this week after it posted a photo on social media of a Christmas tree with photoshopped decorations of what it referred to as “thugshots.”

“We have decorated our Tree with THUGSHOTS to show how many Thugs we have taken off the streets of Mobile this year! We could not have done it without our faithful followers!” the office said in caption accompanying the photoshopped image that posted on Thursday, according to a local CBS station

The “thugshots” were reportedly photos of mugshots that it had gathered throughout the year. 

In the post, which since appears to have been taken down, the office details “a special Christmas offer” it said it’s offering “Mobile County thugs” throughout the month.

“Come to 510 South Royal Street and you will get to pick out one item from our property room! That’s right…any of the things that your friend THUGS have stolen will be available for you!” the post reportedly stated.

“But that’s not all, after you choose your one stolen item, your very own personal concierge #correctionsofficer will provide an escort to METRO DELUXE where you will receive your FREE COVID TEST. If you pass your test, then your concierge will take you for a ‘custom fitting’ to receive your Holiday Jumpsuit with matching ‘flap flops,’” it continued.

According to The Associated Press, the post attracted over 7,900 comments, the majority of which criticized the display. 

The post also drew sharp criticism from local civil rights groups. 

“The majority of people arrested for crimes struggle with mental illness and substance use issues. They need the community’s assistance and care, not open scorn from leaders,” JaTaune Bosby, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama, said in an statement

“We hope the Sheriff and his employees hear the resounding disdain their actions have brought and realize this type of divisive and cruel messaging does not serve the community,” Bosby added.

Alabama NAACP president Robert Clapton also condemned the post in a statement, calling it “inappropriate, shameful, disrespectful, despicable, disgusting and embarrassing to the citizens of Mobile County.”

“We live in a very volatile time,” he also said. “I mean, the relationships between law enforcement and the general public has been compromised. Not only that, but we are living during a pandemic right now where everyone needs to be focused on the same goal and that is having as many people helping each other or to help navigate through this atrocity that is going on right now.” 

A spokesperson for the local sheriff’s office, Lori Myles, told the news agency the post was part of the office’s larger “thug Thursday” initiative. The series, Myles told AP, is meant to highlight pictures of those wanted for a number of offenses.

Myles said the photoshopped decorations depict repeat offenders, telling AP: “It’s not their first rodeo.”

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