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Monday, April 15, 2024

Murrieta Police Department uses LEGO heads to block suspects’ faces in photos on social media

MURRIETA, Calif. — A California police department is getting a lot of attention about the mugshots and arrest photos of suspects they’re posting to their social media accounts. Not because of whether they’re posting them or not, but the alterations being made to the photos: the suspects’ faces are being covered with LEGO heads.

“It’s just a little fun to get some attention,” said Lt. Jeremy Durrant, with the Murrieta Police Department. “Game the social media algorithms, gain some traction, likes and follows, stuff like that.”

Durrant said the Murrieta Police Department first started posting mugshots on its social media accounts about five years ago. At the time, they did not cover the faces of suspects.

“We began publishing a weekly roundup where we started putting out booking photographs of arrests we made during the week,” said Durrant.

But they didn’t always get the reaction they were seeking.

“Those posts would sometimes get a little off track and focus more on the physical appearance of the suspects that we posted about versus the story and the good work our officers were doing,” said Durrant.

Then, in 2021, the state legislature passed laws preventing law enforcement from posting mugshots on their social media accounts, except in certain situations. That’s when the department began using emojis to block the faces of suspects seen in arrest photos.

They eventually settled on LEGO heads.

“I think the community enjoys it,” said Durrant. “They like that we’re putting out the work that we’re doing, and at the same time, making it a little humorous.”

At the beginning of 2024, a new law went into effect in California strengthening the state’s original restrictions on law enforcement posting mugshots on social media. New restrictions include requirements that even mugshots that are allowed to be posted be taken down after 14 days.

However, there are some departments that still post photographs of suspects on their social media accounts.

“We were one of the first agencies here in Riverside County that was posting booking photos,” said Riverside Police Ofc. Ryan Railsback. “And we’ve been doing it for years, and we learned our audience wanted that.”

Railsback said they’re still able to post photos of suspects they arrest while complying with the law. While they do not post booking photos of suspects on social media, they still can post photos taken during the arrest.

“If an officer is at the station, or at a scene, and we get over there and take our own photos of them in handcuffs, sitting on a curb, or something like that; it’s not a booking photo, according to the law,” explained Railsback.

The Murrieta Police Department recently received a request from the manufacturer of LEGO heads, The LEGO Group, requesting them to stop using the trademarked images on their social media pages.

The Murrieta Police Department said it will comply with the request, and come up with another option to block the faces of suspects they arrest in the spirit of the state law.

“I definitely believe strongly in the value of transparency and letting (the public) know what their police department is doing out there, while at the same time, complying with state law and respecting the suspect’s rights as well,” said Durrant.



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