A police force has defended using a meme on social media to tell followers a criminal its officers caught has been sent to prison – despite online backlash.
Lancashire Police posted two images of one of 14 men who had recently been convicted, Samuel Walmsley, using the “how it started v how it’s going” meme format.
The first image on X, formerly known as Twitter, shows Walmsley flashing a stack of cash, followed by his mugshot.
Creating a thread of posts, the force added more information about the arrest and conviction, saying Walmsley was “one of 14 men jailed for nearly 50 years for his role in crime conspiracies in Great Harwood”.
Members of the group were caught after posting their exploits online.
Walmsley was jailed for two years and four months after being charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal a motor vehicle.
The other 13 were given jail sentences of between nine months and five years 10 months for a range of offences.
Lancashire Police’s post has been viewed more than 16 million times since it was posted on Tuesday evening, and has also received thousands of likes, reposts and replies.
The force also asked people who replied to fill in a survey about its social media use.
However, not everyone saw the funny side of the initial post, given the context.
One social media user wrote: “Might be an unpopular opinion, but I feel like the police fundamentally shouldn’t be posting memes like this regardless of what they’ve done.”
Another said: “This sort of mocking, joking tweets is disgraceful. It condescends to and insults the victims of crime, is unseemly celebratory, and acts like policing is all one big jolly jape.”
Meanwhile, another asked: “What kind of society do we live in when official police accounts are posting memes and trying to go viral?”
In response to the criticism, Lancashire Police said in a statement: “The reaction to this post has been overwhelmingly positive both online – with more than 71k likes – and in the local community who were directly affected by this criminal activity.
“We will continue to engage with people in this way to let them know about the work we are doing to tackle serious and organised crime and to keep our communities safe.”