When a pair of Alabama police officers posted a photo of their makeshift “quilt” on social media, it quickly garnered outrage. However, once the department saw how much of a backlash the photo accrued, the officers were placed under investigation to decide a possible punishment.
Mobile Police Department found itself at the center of a controversy after two of its officers posted an unconventional photo to Facebook. The picture, which has since been deleted, featured Officers Preston McGraw and Alexandre Olivier, who are recent graduates of the Mobile Police Academy, AL.com reports. Unfortunately, the pair of freshman officers just may have tarnished their careers before they really even took off.
In the age of social media, one has to be cautious with every internet post. Disturbingly, even statements or images from over a decade ago are being wielded as weapons to ruin the lives of individuals. So, when the pair of law enforcement officers uploaded a flippant photo of their latest work-related project, it was only a matter of time before a major backlash ensued.
In the post, which was made by Preston McGraw, the officers grin and pose with a human-sized amalgamation of taped-together panhandler signs. McGraw mockingly captioned the photo with the words, “Hope you enjoy our homeless quilty” before signing off, “Sincerely Panhandler patrol.”
The “quilt” featured a few dozen cardboard signs, which were presumably confiscated from alleged panhandlers illegally begging for donations. Some of the handwritten signs read “Homeless — need help” and “Trying to make it — anything helps” and “Hungry and homeless.”
Of course, the ill-thought post quickly sparked outrage, accumulating thousands of shares and comments before it was removed by McGraw. Unfortunately for the featured officers, the image was brought to the attention of both the city council and the Mobile Police Department.
Concerned about the growing indignation, Mobile Chief of Police Lawrence Battiste was forced to publicly address the issue. As a prominent advocate for the homeless population, he offered his “sincerest apology” on behalf of his subordinates for their careless actions, according to WALA.
“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 stated. “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. 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.”
Mobile Police later explained that one of the officers in the photo was actually lauded 6 months ago for purchasing a drink for a thirsty homeless man. However, the officer’s kind gesture didn’t stop him or his accomplice from being placed under investigation over the recent photo.
“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.
Battiste explained that McGraw and Olivier were placed in charge of addressing the growing panhandling issue in Mobile. He added that they took it too far when they made a mockery of their objective.
“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.
Supporters of Officers Preston McGraw and Alexandre Olivier claim that panhandlers are often not homeless and make a comfortable living at it as a full-time job. If that is the case, those people should not be offended. However, their critics are outraged that homeless people were used as a joke. They claim that most people ignore the homeless population because they incorrectly believe they are just drug addicts who are looking for the next fix.
So, what’s the answer to this debate? The police officers should have to spend one night in a homeless camp, and their critics should have to spend one shift as a cop. Each side would gain a better understanding of the other. That sounds like a good solution to me.