News & Politics

Montgomery County Police Apologize for Elf on the Shelf Photos

Local cops surrender in the War on Christmas.

Holiday patrol. Cached image via Google.

Christmas and Hanukkah ended two weeks ago, but the Montgomery County Police Department is still dealing with the decorations. The department, in a somewhat befuddling tweet on Thursday, announced that it is scrubbing its social media accounts of images featuring Elf on the Shelf and Mensch on a Bench, popular figurines that some observers of Christmas and Hanukkah put up during the holidays.

The department’s initial tweet was greeted with some incredulity, but it is no joke. A police spokesman tells Washingtonian there were complaints that Elf on a Shelf and Mensch on a Bench were insulting to someone’s beliefs.

“The person who complained found one or both offensive,” says Captain Paul Starks.

Elf on the Shelf adherents often share photos of the dolls after placing them in creative positions, ranging from the delightfully safe to the disturbingly chaotic. Judging from Starks’s descriptions, MCP wasn’t doing anything too naughty with its Elf and Mensch. Sometimes they were posed around police stations. In the photo above, they were positioned on the windshield of a motorcycle. It was just a holiday stunt designed to make the cops appear festive.

“If you Google them, there are people who put them in all kind of precarious decisions,” he says. “Christmas Day we put Elf on a Shelf getting out of the box. Obviously, we’re doing it to try to lighten up some of the news and information we put out and also connect with more of the community in another way.”

Starks could not elaborate on the nature of the complaint, but he says all the offending images have been removed from the department’s Facebook and Twitter histories.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.