Mobile, AL – An Alabama police chief has issued a public apology for the “insensitive” social media post officers from his department made showing them posing with a “homeless quilt” composed of signs confiscated from panhandlers.
The photo showed two smiling, uniformed Mobile Police Department (MPD) officers as they held up approximately two dozen taped-together cardboard signs emblazoned with messages about being homeless and needing help.
“Wanna wish everybody in 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain,” the now-deleted post read. “Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt! Sincerely, Panhandler patrol.”
A screenshot of the post, which has been shared on Facebook over 16,000 times so far, has racked up over 2,000 comments, nearly all of which criticized police.
Many demanded that all of the involved officers be fired.
The Birmingham News identified the officers in the photo as Officer Alexandre Olivier and Officer Preston McGraw.
Officer Olivier has been with MPD for nearly two years. Officer McGraw joined the department one year ago.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste issued a “sincerest apology” for the post on Monday.
“As a police department entrusted with serving and protecting our community, we offer our sincerest apology for the insensitive gesture of a Facebook post by two of our officers where they are holding up a homeless ‘quilt’ made of panhandling signs,” Chief Battiste wrote.
“Although we do not condone panhandling and must enforce the city ordinances that limit panhandling, it is never our intent or desire as a police department to make light of those who find themselves in a homeless state,” he continued. “Rather, our position has always been to partner with community service providers to help us help those faced with homelessness with hope to improve their quality of life.”
The MPD has launched an internal investigation into the incident, according to FOX News.
“We have to take responsibility for it – we did it,” Chief Battiste told WALA. “We have to own it at this point.”
“Those officers were given a mandate of addressing those concerns of panhandling,” he noted. “Unfortunately, they took it to a level that they should not have taken it too and for that, as the chief of police, I apologize.”
According to the department, one of the officers who posed for the now-viral photo was also praised for buying a homeless citizen something to drink on a hot day this past summer, WALA reported.
“The officers had a lapse in judgement we'll address that through the investigation, and we'll make a determination did we do it out of malice or did we do it because we made a mistake,” Chief Battiste told the news outlet.