The Mobile County Sheriff's Department posted a picture of the tree with the caption: “We have decorated our Tree with THUGSHOTS to show how many Thugs we have taken off the streets of Mobile this year!”
The department added: “We could not have done it without our faithful followers,” according to local news outlet WKRG.
The post also joked about a “special offer” to the area’s “thugs”, which said that the department would provide a “concierge corrections officer” to take them to prison and give them a “custom fitting” for a “holiday jumpsuit".
The department removed the post after it received more than 7,900 comments, with many residents criticising the decorations as demeaning and cruel, according to the Associated Press.
The post was also criticised by the Mobile branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who called it “inappropriate, shameful, disrespectful, despicable, disgusting and embarrassing”.
The branch’s president, Robert Clopton, said that multiple “irate” residents had contacted him to complain about the post.
“We live in a very volatile time,” he said in a statement over the weekend. “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,” Mr Clopton added.
Lori Myles, a spokesperson for the Mobile County Sheriff's Department, told AL.com that the images had been photoshopped onto the tree and confirmed that it was not on display at the office.
However, Ms Myles defended the tree and claimed that it was “a good thing”, showing that “they have taken these career criminals off the streets”.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU), also condemned the decorations, calling them “divisive and cruel”.
The group’s executive director, JaTaune Bosby, added: “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.”
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