A Calif. Police Department Was Putting Lego Heads on Mugshots. The Company Asked Them to Stop

“They didn't go demand that we take everything down. It was basically, ‘Hey, you guys had a good run. Go ahead and stop,' " Murrieta police Lt. Jeremy Durrant tells PEOPLE

<p>Murrieta Police Department</p> Murrieta Police Department using Lego heads as mugshots

Murrieta Police Department

Murrieta Police Department using Lego heads as mugshots

Lego has requested a California police department refrain from posting on social media its yellow minifigure heads on suspects’ faces.

Murrieta police Lt. Jeremy Durrant tells PEOPLE that the toy production company contacted the police department last week after they posted on social media a fictional line-up of five men sporting different Lego heads.

The March 18 law enforcement post titled “Why the covered faces?” was a reminder to the public about a new California law that came into effect in early January that “prohibits law enforcement from sharing suspect photos for nonviolent crimes, unless specified circumstances exist.”

“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 post read. "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.”

Assembly Bill 994 also requires law enforcement agencies to delete mugshots from social media after 14 days, unless special circumstances apply.

<p>Murrieta Police Department</p>

Murrieta Police Department

Durrant says Lego officials “were flattered we were using their images but asked us to respectfully refrain from using their intellectual property in our social media pages.”

“It was a good conversation,” he adds. “They didn't go demand that we take everything down. It was basically, ‘Hey, you guys had a good run. Go ahead and stop from now.’ And we're like, ‘Yep, not a problem.’"

The Lego Group declined to comment.

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Durrant says the line-up post of suspects was “simply an example image. That's not real at all. Basically, the intent of that post was to explain to people why we obscure faces, and the image was just generated. It's not a real image.”

The department, he says, wanted to “highlight the work our officers are doing out in the community, not necessarily identify these people we're contacting down [in] the field. We're not trying to highlight them or put them on blast. I want people to see the good work our officers are doing.”

Durrant says the department has been concealing the faces of some suspects since 2021.

“We were obscuring faces, either showing back shots of suspects or putting emojis over their faces, and at some point, they just simply settled on Legos because it seemed to be a fun way to get people's attention and got some engagement,” he says.

The Lego heads seemed “to be the easiest way to get our message across with the different expressions and a variety of different faces,” says Durrant. “So that's what we settled on. We used emojis before that. We've used some other things, but Lego seemed to be the most popular.”

Durrant says the department is currently “tossing some ideas around” about how to alter the photos of suspects in the future.

“The one that keeps coming up is just emojis, some type of generic expressive emojis that aren't copyrighted or trademarked,” he says.

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