Odd News Show

Wipe That Face Off Your Head: Southern California Police Cover Suspects’ Faces with Lego Heads

A police department that photoshopped Lego heads over mugshots of accused citizens has been asked by the toy giant to stop it, lest they step on an errant brick, which would be a real shame… a real shame.

By Katie Compa · April 2, 2024

Could you pick any of these guys out of a lineup? Sunny Ripert/Flickr

Disclaimer: While this story is built on a plastic foundation of facts, be careful when walking around to avoid stepping on the bricks of satire.

Lego has had to crack bricks over the practice of a Southern California police department that used their signature heads to protect the identities of people in booking photos on their website and social media channels.

Riverside County’s Murrieta Police Department started using Lego heads and emojis to cover faces in mugshots in early 2023 after California passed AB 1475, a law barring the posting of mugshots of nonviolent offenders and requiring them to be pulled if the subjects could prove their record was sealed or their conviction expunged.

This year, on January 1, the state passed a new law, AB 994, limiting the state’s police departments in sharing mugshots on social media. Cops must now pull down any photo that has been shared, regardless of the severity of the offense, within 14 days of posting (barring extenuating circumstances, like a threat to public safety or an exciting speed chase in a white Chevy Bronco, though we’re just spitballing).

Murrieta PD still wanted to share photos in their newsletter, so they met internally and devised a solution of adding Lego heads and emojis to scrub the images of arrestees’ identities.

File photo of the brainstorm meeting at MPD HQ  Willis Lam/Flickr

It was all going fine until their altered photos became the subject of a viral news story, and the toy company caught wind of it. Obviously, it’s off-brand for the almost 100-year-old company, whose name comes from the Danish translation for “play well” (leg godt). In true Danish style, the toy company was so mad that they… uh, politely asked that the Murrieta Police Department in Southern California please respect their intellectual property, which they gladly agreed to do.

At least Murrieta’s department was trying to comply and respect the privacy of people who appeared in booking photos. We all make mistakes! Other law enforcement agencies in the state are twisting themselves into pretzels to find a way around the law (irony meter: broken!) by posting unedited photos that aren’t from booking - for example, in the back of a police cruiser, or being escorted from a scene in handcuffs. 

Posting mugshots online of people who’ve been popped for a minor offense, like public drunkenness or really bad shoes, can indeed be harmful regardless of the joy their nosy neighbors may derive from seeing them. A mugshot alone can make a person appear guilty, and for people who’ve already served their time for an offense, it can hinder their job prospects and reentry into society. Plus, it’s in California, and for celebrities in particular, a bad mugshot can really ruin their week/weekend/life, unless they totally got away with it.

ALLEGEDLY!  Marc Levi/Flickr

The police station said in a news statement that they are “currently exploring other methods to continue publishing our content in a way that is engaging and interesting to our followers,” which prompts the question: Who is following a police station because they find their content interesting and/or relevant, and do they have alibis for January 6?

Not to mention, is shoddy PhotoShopping really the law enforcement activity that tax dollars should fund? Perhaps Lego Batman should get Lego Commissioner Gordon on the Lego Bat Phone to get a handle on the Lego Gotham budget allocations and Defund The Lego Police.

But if you must have a Lego mugshot, anyone can create their own Lego figures on the company’s website using their “Pick a Brick” service and simply pair them with a Lego police station. For the rest of the day, you can find us Lego-izing the whole Odd News Show editorial team.