(CBS) – A photo of a Christmas tree shared by an Alabama Sherriff’s office has sparked outrage online for its offensive decorations. The tree appeared to be adorned with what officials called “thugshots” — images of people who have been arrested in the area.
“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!” the post on the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page said, according to CBS News affiliate WKRG.
The post also included a “special offer” to all Mobile County “thugs.” It appeared to be taunting supposed criminals in the area, offering to provide them with a “concierge corrections officer” to take them to jail and give them a “custom fitting” for a “holiday jumpsuit.”
According to The Associated Press, more than 7,900 people commented on the “Thug Thursday” post, which has since been removed. Many commenters apparently called the decorations demeaning and cruel.
The Mobile branch of the NAACP called the post “unacceptable” and said it has reached out to the Sheriff’s Office on two occasions, with no response. President Robert Clopton said that “irate” residents have contacted him about the post.
“We live in a very volatile time,” said Clopton in a statement, demanding accountability. “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,” Clopton said.
Lori Myles, a spokesperson for the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department, said that the photos are actually Photoshopped onto the tree, and not on display at the department’s offices. Myles also said that the tree is a “good thing,” showing the community that “career criminals” were taken off the streets.
Myles said the department removed the post after receiving death threats.
The ACLU of Alabama has also condemned the tree, calling it “divisive and cruel.”
“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,” JaTaune Bosby, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement. “We hope the Sheriff and his employees hear the resounding disdain their actions have brought and realize this type of divisive and cruel messaging does not serve the community.”