Bad Santa or bad cops? Critics slam photo of drunk jailed man in Santa outfit

A Southern California police department is weathering criticism on social media over a picture that appears to show a drunk burglary suspect wearing a Santa costume in a jail cell.

The Brea Police Department, east of Los Angeles in Orange County, shared the photo on Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday. The post has been retweeted more than a hundred times and shared on Facebook by dozens of users.

The unidentified man in the festive outfit “was a suspect in the burglary of a storage shed from a local church Tuesday morning, where, police say, he likely got the Santa suit,” FOX 11 reports.

“Dear Santa, I’m sorry I stole your red suit. I was drunk and made some poor choices,” police wrote on Facebook and Twitter. “I know it’s only October. And it’s hot. Too hot for this suit. But I was drunk. Poor choices.”

Police said the suspect “appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs when officers found him inside his car at about 7 a.m. in the 600 block of Balsa Avenue in Brea,” FOX 11 reports.

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Police signed the satirical letter “Sincerely, Drunk Santa Suit Criminal.”

But not everyone on social media was laughing.

“He was drunk. Y’all are sober,” one critic tweeted. “What’s your excuse for shaming the guy on social media? Please be better than this.”

Someone else tweeted that “suspect shaming ain’t a good look, Brea.”

On Facebook, commenter Liz Rodriguez wrote that police violated “the spirit of Christmas.”

“The spirit of Christmas isn’t about publicly shaming those who have made a poor choice in life. Very disappointed that those who serve and protect choose to use their platform to incite judgment upon someone else,” Rodriguez wrote. “Ironic. The ‘poor choice’ here was in BPD lack of poor judgment to post a photo of a man (not booking photo) at his expense, eliciting all these type of comments of publicly shaming and scrutiny.”

Another commenter had a response to that criticism.

“He stole from a church, he publicly shamed himself!” Sylvia Trani wrote. “If you don’t want to be mocked, publicly shamed or even judged, act like an adult and be a productive member of society.”

One Facebook commenter asked why police didn’t blur the man’s face in the photo.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.