The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office has removed a controversial social media post featuring a photo of a Christmas tree altered to include mugshots of suspects featured in a weekly “Thug Thursday” post, a spokeswoman has confirmed.
The altered image was taken down after the office received a flurry of backlash to the post, including death threats to deputies, a threat to burn down the office and a promised tie-up of the county’s 9-1-1 system from out-of-state callers, MCSO spokeswoman Lori Myles said.“There is no post more important than the lives of our deputies and the work they do in our community,” Myles said in an email statement. “The death threats, fire to our building and other negative messages were not from our community; however, if this post jeopardizes the relationship between law enforcement and other communities then we felt it best to remove it.”
Myles said the office is cognizant of the negative racist connotation associated with the word “thug” and she has made an effort to mostly use White suspects in the posts. The mugshots on the altered tree photo were made up of a majority of White suspects, she said.
“We’re very, very careful with it,” Myles said.
The mugshots in question, Myles said, came from a year’s worth of the office’s “Thug Thursday” social media posts, are all taken from public information and are from suspects considered “career criminals.”
The popular posts, Myles said, result in a 95 percent arrest rate.
“They are either ashamed and turn themselves in, or usually a family member turns them in,” she said. “In cases involving drug trafficking, sometimes their competitors turn them in.”
Myles said the posts are also made with the knowledge of the negative impact a mugshot can have on someone who isn’t a repeat offender.
“The mugshots on our site are up for 24 hours because we know everybody can make a mistake,” she said. “Everyone can be accused of something.”
When a mugshot is used for a post, Myles said, it comes from a suspect who has spoken to law enforcement and been asked to turn themselves in, or the office has raw video footage of them committing the crime.
“This is not their first rodeo,” she said. “They’re avoiding us and we’ve dealt with them before.”
Regardless, the office will start making the posts under the name “Warrant Wednesday,” Myles said, which has always been used, but is not as popular as the Thursday posts.
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