Lego Asks Murrieta Police to Stop Masking Suspects with Toy Heads

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In an intriguing twist of law enforcement and child’s play, the Murrieta Police Department in Southern California has been recently tickled on the wrist by the Lego company. The toy giant has firmly asked the police department to desist from using Lego heads to veil the identities of suspects in images published on the department’s social media platforms.

The unique blend of playfulness and seriousness that provoked a stir in the community began in early 2023, with Lego heads and emojis cropping up on suspects’ faces in shared posts. However, this rather creative approach skyrocketed to national attention last week when the department released a statement explaining its policy. The peculiar yet fascinating strategy sparked a flurry of news articles and eventually attracted Lego’s attention, leading them to request the cessation of using their product in this offbeat manner.

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“Why the covered faces?” the department queried rhetorically in an Instagram post from March 18. Accompanying the question was an image of a suspect lineup, each individual masked with an artfully chosen Lego head depicting varying expressions. The post elucidated their reasoning, pointing towards a California law that kicked into effect on the first day of 2023 and put restrictions on sharing mugshots on social media.

Transparency and community engagement are paramount for the Murrieta Police Department, they declared, but so too is observing everyone’s legal rights and protections—even those accused of crimes. This is a sentiment that weaves its way through many law enforcement agencies across the U.S., with initiatives like “Mugshot Mondays” and “Wanted Wednesdays” causing quite a buzz on social media. However, the ramifications of such engagements, as experts contend, could be detrimental, with mugshots casting premature judgments and ex-convicts struggling to clear their tarnished reputations.

The new California statute obliges police departments and sheriff’s offices to erase shared booking photos from social media within 14 days. This requirement is lifted only in specific circumstances – for instance, if the suspect remains a fugitive and a credible threat to public safety. This law expanded on a previous one that forbade the posting of mugshots of all non-violent offenders unless under special circumstances.

A lively discussion within the Murrieta police led to the proclamation of a new approach on Instagram in January 2023. The community-wide popularity of their “Weekly Roundup” posts led to the imaginative use of Lego heads and emojis, simultaneously obeying the letter of the law while maintaining their engaging connection with Murrieta residents.

However, on March 19, the phone rang, carrying across the line a polite yet sincere request from Lego for the police to halt the utilisation of its intellectual property in their social media escapades—an appeal that Lt. Jeremy Durrant agreed to honour with understanding and compliance.

Currently, the department is seeking out alternative ways to keep publishing content that is captivating and engrossing for followers. Durrant graciously withdrew from further comment, and Lego remained mum despite the flurry of emails sent their way.

Primary sponsor of the California law, Assemblymember Corey Jackson, articulated skepticism regarding Murrieta’s inventive endeavor. He doubted whether the residents would be comfortable with their taxes going towards putting Lego faces on suspects for social media display, instead of services contributing to their protection.

Despite complying with the law’s intents, Murrieta’s unprecedented approach has triggered conversations about the interpretation of the new statute. Assemblymember Jackson alleged that certain agencies are exploiting loopholes by sharing images of suspects handcuffed in police vehicles or at crime scenes, contending the distinction between them and booking photos. Amidst the ensuing legal uncertainties, Jackson’s team is seeking legal clarification from the state’s Department of Justice.

“If law enforcement wants the public to trust them and to support them as they say they want to implement law and order, how does their active gamesmanship on trying to skirt the law themselves help them in achieving that?” Jackson pondered, leaving the question hanging in the air for the public to mull over.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.