The photo, which featured confiscated cardboard signs taped together, outraged many and prompted an apology

By Rachel DeSantis
December 31, 2019 12:19 PM
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Mobile Alabama Police 'Homeless Quilt'
Credit: Facebook

An Alabama police department has apologized for an “insensitive gesture” after two of its officers drew flak for posting a photo of a “homeless quilt” made of cardboard signs that had been confiscated from panhandlers.

The Mobile Police Department’s Chief of Police Lawrence Battiste issued a statement on Monday apologizing for the viral photo, which was originally shared by an officer on Facebook, according to NBC News.

“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,” Battiste’s statement, which was shared to Facebook, read.

It continued, “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.”

In the photo, two officers — identified as Preston McGraw and Alexandre Olivier by AL.com — smile as they hold up their creation, which features more than a dozen cardboard signs taped together.

Select signs read, “Homeless need help thank you god bless,” “Hungry and homeless” and “Trying to make it anything helps god bless you.”

The photo was originally shared with the caption, “Wanna wish everybody in 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain. Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt! Sincerely, Panhandler patrol,” according to AL.com.

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Despite the department’s apology, many Facebook commenters took issue with the post and called for the firing of those involved.

“I hope you disciplined these two officers … People don’t choose to or enjoy being homeless, for God’s sake have some empathy,” one user wrote.

Added another, “While an apology is appreciated, the fact remains that officers planned this! They saved signs, taped these signs together – fully knowing that often homeless use other materials to blanket them from the elements, and then posted this while claiming they wanted to please their superiors. I understand that panhandling is illegal in Mobile and if solving the issues surrounding our homeless was easy we would all be doing more. BUT, making fun is a disgrace.”

Panhandling in Mobile is only allowed outside of a designated downtown area popular with tourists, according to AL.com. The law was passed in 2010, and violators can face fines of up to $500, community service and/or up to six months in jail.