An Alabama sheriff’s department drew backlash for posting a photo of a Christmas tree decorated with pictures of people who are wanted or have been charged with crimes.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 6, 2020
The now-deleted post was apparently a part of the “Thug Thursday” series of messages that highlighted local suspects.
“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!”
This is why people want to defund the police. In Alabama, the Mobile County Sheriff's Office, @team_sheriff, put up a Christmas tree decorated with mugshots "to show how many Thugs we have taken off the streets." This is beyond sickening. pic.twitter.com/EzgZYQ5W1T
— Beth Shelburne (@bshelburne) December 4, 2020
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, Lori Myles, defended the display and told AL.com:
“The thug tree was to show how many people we have arrested by putting them out there (on social media) and having the community sharing that we were looking for those people in which led to an arrest.”
“It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing in a community that they have taken these career criminals off the streets. We were thanking them and showing the results of Thug Thursday.”
However, many social media users did not view the endeavor as a “good thing” as stated by Myles.
Over 7,900 people commented on the department’s post – many of which were negative.
Twitter also thought the tree was demeaning and cruel.
— Shan Thee Pony (@swal_21) December 4, 2020
— AL.com (@aldotcom) December 4, 2020
The only thugs I see are cops.https://t.co/1V7dkx4b1a
— J. R. R. 🐒 (@jrrbraden) December 7, 2020
MF Racist Alabama sheriff police thugs 🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬
— 20PearlGirl57 (@20PearlGirl57) December 6, 2020
They 💯 knew this wasn't cool. That's exactly why they did it
— Nicholas (@fools_n_kings) December 4, 2020
Distasteful ! I’m sure that’s not how Jesus wants his birthday celebrated !🥴
— DON… (@iDefine_Ideal_) December 4, 2020
Arresting people for committing crimes is one thing but when you celebrate locking people up that are in most cases addicted to drugs that the government failed to protect us from is absolutely heartless and disgusting.
— 𝙼𝚞𝚑𝚊𝚖𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝚇 (@m_jibraeel) December 5, 2020
Because nothing says “Christmas spirit” like celebrating the transgressions of others. Shameful. And honestly just tacky.
— Jennifer Ellison (@J_H_Ellison) December 4, 2020
Myles maintained the department was not mocking the people who were arrested but said the display was a representation of community efforts.
“It’s funny and does draw attention, and that is why we share it. There are results. We were not making fun (of those arrested), but it’s about looking at what happens when a community gets involved and gets tired of these people and their criminal activity.”
“It’s law enforcement and the community working together.”
The spokesperson also mentioned the “thugshots” represented repeat offenders.
“It’s not their first rodeo. They’ve been continuous with multiple arrests.”
NBC News noted the word “thug” has a racist connotation referring to African Americans and has been applied to:
“Delegitimize racial protest movements throughout the nation’s civil rights history largely in an effort to undermine the message and diminish support, political experts say.”
“The use of the word thug is a part of that history and continuum.”
The ACLU of Alabama denounced the department and said many of those arrested for crimes usually “struggle with mental illness and substance use issues.”
“They need the community’s assistance and care, not open scorn from leaders.”
Our Executive Director @JaTauneB on the Mobile sheriff’s ‘thug’ Christmas tree:
“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.”https://t.co/72RZz1aaqU
— ACLU of Alabama (@ACLUAlabama) December 4, 2020
Robert Clopton, president of the Mobile County NAACP stated:
“We live in a very volatile time. 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.”
“This is inappropriate, shameful, disrespectful, despicable, disgusting, and embarrassing to the citizens of Mobile County.”