Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste released a statement Tuesday, apologizing for the viral photo posted on Facebook showing two of the department's officers holding up what they jokingly called a "homeless quilt."
"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,” Battiste said. “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.”
The controversial photo shows two officers from the 4th Precinct holding a taped up collection of signs from panhandlers, which are believed to be mostly confiscated from those in the same precinct. "Wanna wish everybody in 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain," the message reads. "Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt."
After garnering country-wide attention on social media, the post was brought to the attention of Battiste, who immediately accepted responsibility for the officers' actions, despite their aggressive stance on panhandling, which is illegal in Mobile.
"Once again, I'd like to apologize for the insensitive behavior of the officers, their actions are nowhere indicative of who we are as a department,” Battiste said.
"I take full responsibility for making sure we have an aggressive stance on dealing with panhandlers because it impacts the safety of our community. … (But) we do not intend to police or way out of homelessness," he continued.
Battiste said the situation is currently under administrative review, and any disciplinary action will be taken when the process is complete.