MOBILE, Ala (WALA) – A social media post by Mobile police officers featuring a photo and text that some say mock homeless people has resulted in an apology by MPD Police Chief Lawrence Battiste.
The photo, which was posted on a private Facebook page, shows two MPD officers in uniform holding up a cardboard "quilt" of taped-together signs apparently confiscated from panhandlers.
“We have to take responsibility for it, we did it,” said Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste. “We have to own it at this point.”
Text accompanying the photo reads, "Wanna wish everybody in 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain. Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt! Sincerely, Panhandler patrol."
“Those officers were given a mandate of addressing those concerns of panhandling, 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,” Battiste said.
Homelessness is an issue in Mobile and Baldwin counties. According to numbers from Housing First, more than 2,500 people came to them for help this year. The organization is hoping the picture brings awareness to the issue and prompts donations and people to volunteer.
“What I think this does more than anything else is give us an opportunity to talk about homelessness in Mobile and Baldwin counties and what resources are available to this community when we talk about the subject,” said Derek Boulware, CEO of Housing First.
Mobile Police said one of the officers in the now viral post was praised back in June for buying a homeless man a drink on a hot summer day.
“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,” Battiste said.