Police officials in Mobile, Alabama, are apologizing after a social media post by two officers went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Some took offense to the posting, saying the photograph and the comment that went with it mocked homeless people.
The viral post has prompted an internal investigation.
"We have to take responsibility for it, we did it. We have to own it at this point,” Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste told WALA.
Two officers with the Mobile Police Department appeared in uniform holding a "homeless quilt,” according to a now-deleted Facebook post. The social media post showed the officers holding a “quilt” made up of cardboard signs that had been confiscated from panhandlers. The caption that accompanied the photo in the social media post read, “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 to 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, Inc., more then 2,500 people came to them for help this year.
The organization is hoping this picture brings awareness to the homelessness issue and prompts donations and people to volunteer.
“I think what 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, the CEO of Housing First.
Mobile police say one of the officers in this 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 judgment. 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.
The chief also said the department's position is to partner with community service providers to help provide the homeless with hope to improve their quality of life.