The Lego Group has instructed the Murrieta Police Department to stop using Lego toy heads to obscure the identities of suspects in photos. This is according to a statement made by the department to news media, in which Lt. Jeremy Durrant explained that the makers of the Lego toys requested that images of the toy not be digitally added to suspect photos on social media.

Lt. Durrant stated, “The Lego Group reached out to us and respectfully asked us to refrain from using their intellectual property in our social media content, which, of course, we understand and will comply with.”

The Murrieta Police Department explained in a post on social media that placing the images of Lego heads over the faces of suspects was intended to conceal the identities of those suspects, which is required by California state law. 

“On January 1st, a new law went into effect that restricts how and when law enforcement agencies in California share suspect photos and mugshots,” they wrote in the post. “The new law, Assembly Bill 944 and Penal Code 13665, now prohibits law enforcement from sharing suspect photos for nonviolent crimes unless specified circumstances exist. Additionally, the new law requires agencies to remove suspect mugshots from social media after 14 days, unless special circumstances exist.”

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However, the practice of using Lego heads is only the newest way for the Murrieta Police Department to obscure suspect identities, a policy that began long before the new law went into effect. “We’ve been doing this for the past couple of years, and it’s nothing new to us,” a police spokesperson said in a previous statement to news media. “In the interest of keeping our residents updated on public safety events in our community while, at the same time, respecting the new regulations, we’ve been obscuring the faces of suspects in our social media posts in various ways.”

“The Murrieta Police Department prides itself on its transparency with the community,” the Murrieta Police Department posted on Instagram, “but also honors everyone’s rights and protections as afforded by law, even suspects. In order to share what is happening in Murrieta, we chose to cover the faces of suspects to protect their identity while still aligning with the new law.”

In November of last year, the Murrieta Police Department gave a preemptive explanation with a lengthy Facebook post that said, in part, “After weighing a lot of factors, the department ultimately decided to generally not post the faces of arrestees. There are circumstances that arise that do necessitate or warrant the posting of an arrestee’s face, but the department decided those would be the exceptions and not the rule.” Among the reasons that the department cited for obscuring faces were “the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law,” as well as, “the effects a post could have on an individual or their families outside of the criminal proceedings they may be subject to.”

“We are currently exploring other methods to continue publishing our content in a way that is engaging and interesting to our followers,” said Lieutenant Durrant.