The Murrieta Police Department has found itself in a playful predicament. In a move aimed at complying with new state regulations on mugshot distribution, the department has been obscuring the faces of arrestees with digitally added Lego heads in their social media posts. This creative workaround caught the attention of the Lego Group, who politely asked the department to stop using their iconic toy imagery.

The recent kerfuffle highlights a clash between transparency and new California laws regarding police image use.  Assembly Bill 1475, passed in 2021, prohibits local law enforcement from releasing mugshots of suspects arrested for nonviolent offenses. The Murrieta Police Department turned to Lego heads and other emojis as a lighthearted way to address the restriction while still engaging with the community on social media.

“The Murrieta Police Department prides itself in its transparency with the community, but also honors everyone’s rights & protections as afforded by law; even suspects,” the department explained in a prior social media post.

The Lego Group, however, was not amused. The toy company, protective of its intellectual property, reached out to the department and  “respectfully asked … to refrain from using their intellectual property in our social media content.” The police department announced it would comply with the request.

The Lego head incident has added a touch of humor to an ongoing debate about how California law enforcement agencies should balance community engagement with new privacy laws. While the Murrieta Police Department’s creativity was well-received by some, it seems even playful solutions may not always build the best rapport with brands.

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