Tuesday, the Alabama chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR-Alabama, called for corrective action after Mobile Police officers posted on social media a “homeless quilt” that ridiculed homeless people. CAIR-Alabama said that action was needed to insure no member of the department engages in similar activity in the future.
The Facebook post showed two police officers, holding a “homeless quilt” made of cardboard signs that were allegedly confiscated from homeless community members seeking aid and assistance.
The post read: “Wanna wish everybody in the 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain. Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt. Sincerely Panhandler patrol.”
“We condemn the inconsiderate language of the post by individuals who are supposed to protect, rather than ridicule the citizens they serve,” said Ali Massoud, government affairs coordinator for CAIR-Alabama. “More disturbing is that Mobile’s Director of Public Safety, James Barber, defended the officers. His insensitivity indicates no meaningful action will be taken to prevent such crass behavior in the future. It is evident real action, starting at the top, is needed.”
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste has already apologized for the incident, calling it an “insensitive gesture.”
“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,” Battiste said.
Both officers are reportedly recent graduates of the Mobile Police Academy.
Mobile passed a panhandling law in 2010. Asking for money is not allowed outside in the Mobile downtown. Panhandling in the restricted zone can result in a fine of up to $500, community service, and/or up to six months in jail.
The Montgomery City Council passed a similar ordinance last year; but repealed it after complaints from civil rights groups and advocates for the poor.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its stated mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.