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This tactic, while popular and widely shared, has caused dismay at Danish toy company LEGO.

The Murrieta Police Department, located in close proximity to Los Angeles, California, recently received a compelling request to adapt their innovative approach to social media. In an effort to comply with new state law that prohibits publishing photos of people arrested for non-violent crimes, the department has developed a creative method to protect the identities of suspects. Using image editing software, they replaced suspects' faces with yellow LEGO minifigure heads in their social media posts. Danish toy company LEGO has asked police to stop using their iconic minifigure heads without permission.

property rights

The LEGO Group, known for its strict enforcement of intellectual property rights, reached out to the police department with a friendly request to refrain from using their intellectual property in online content. Lt. Jeremy Durra of the Murrieta Police Department acknowledged the request of LEGO and indicated that the department will discontinue the use of LEGO figures and look for alternative methods to keep their content attractive and interesting to their followers. 

This incident underscores the challenges law enforcement agencies face in balancing publicness and privacy while trying to innovate in their communications with the public. Before LEGO intervened, police had demonstrated a sense of humor by using a range of set expressions on the digital disguises, including grinning, growling and smiling LEGO faces.

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Illustration: © Pitane Blue - LEGO

These methods of face replacement were defended by the police spokesperson, who emphasized that the aim was to inform residents about public safety events in their community, while at the same time respecting the new regulations. The tactic has been used in recent years and is not new to the department, which continues to look for balanced ways to both protect individuals' privacy and inform the public.

The incident involving LEGO and the Murrieta Police Department sheds light on the complex interactions between companies, law enforcement agencies and the use of social media. As the department turns to other methods to conceal suspects' faces, the discussion about privacy, publicity and creativity in the digital age continues.

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