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John Oliver made some jokes at Murrieta’s expense on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” (HBO via YouTube)
John Oliver made some jokes at Murrieta’s expense on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” (HBO via YouTube)
David Allen

You may recall the recent weird news that the Murrieta Police Department had to give up playfully obscuring suspect mugshots with Lego heads after Lego reprimanded them.

This made national news, including the New York Post, Forbes, USA Today and the Washington Examiner (headline: “Murrieta police sent to Lego jail”).

Now HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has piled on. Oliver opened his March 31 show with a few jokes about police use of Legos.

“Well, that is shocking for a number of reasons,” says Oliver. “One, that they were doing it, and two, that Lego was mad at them, because it is one of the most pro-cop toy franchises I’ve ever seen.”

California police agencies since Jan. 1 have been barred from releasing photos of people arrested for non-violent crimes. The suspects haven’t even had their day in court, remember. Murrieta got creative by obscuring their faces with images of emojis, Shrek and then Legos, to generally positive reactions on Instagram.

“But that’s not the police’s job at all,” Oliver asserts. “There is a reason they have mottos like ‘to protect and serve’ and not ‘to protect, serve and get to 1 million followers. Please hit like and subscribe.’”

Well, maybe. But I can see how the Murrieta Police Department might be a little confused by this criticism. Usually comedians tell police to lighten up. Here’s a comedian telling police to be more serious.

More Oliver

The Murrieta jabs came almost a year to the day from Oliver’s last Inland Empire reference. In a March 2023 segment on a federal welfare program, he digressed for three minutes to mock a Riverside County-commissioned batch of “work-ethic” songs in the 1990s that were played to callers on hold.

OIiver described one song as a mating of “We Are the World” with “a cheap motivational poster.”

Hey, maybe that reflected local sensibilities. Riverside County wouldn’t take inspiration from some gold-plated-Cadillac motivational poster, you know!

Fried day

Friday, always the busiest day of the week for me, was extra hectic last week. With most of my Sunday column left to write, I interrupted my day to drive to Corona to give a lunch talk to the Rotary Club.

One of my first comments from the lectern was to ask how many of the 30 community-minded people in the room had read my column that morning, which by coincidence was about Corona. Only two or three had.

I chided everyone else and read it aloud, explained how I’d come to write about the filming of 1953’s “The War of the Worlds” in their city, and then talked more generally about the state of newspapers and my own passion for my role.

To the club’s credit, they took the teasing well, listened actively and asked good questions. By the end, a few people said they’d subscribe. I’d put that in the win category. Thanks, Corona Rotary.

One of the subscribers in the room, by the way, was Ross Newhan. The former baseball writer, who retired to Corona, was celebrating his birthday that very day. At age 87, he made this 60-year-old feel like a kid.

Lunch concluded, I drove back to Ontario to resume work on my column on the California Jam rock festival. With that accomplished by 5 p.m., my afternoon ended with my finally reading my morning newspapers. Then I drove home to Claremont.

That, however, wasn’t the end.

A student protest was taking place at Pomona College. We didn’t have a photographer or reporter available to go.

I ambled over from my house and took photos of students being arrested and led to a jail transport vehicle by police in riot gear. Notepad in hand, I faithfully transcribed some of the protest chants and passed those along to an editor for inclusion in a news story.

Reading her Sunday paper carefully, Tammy Woodman of Upland, for one, noticed my twin efforts.

“So on the same day,” Woodman phoned to say, “you write about the 50th anniversary of a rock and roll concert and also a political demonstration at Pomona College. Well, you certainly are becoming the college of knowledge for the Inland Empire.”

All in a (rather long) day’s work. It was more stressful than usual, but strangely fun.


Cecil “Chip” Murray, the prominent Los Angeles pastor who died April 5 at age 94, got his start in the Pomona Valley. He graduated from the Claremont School of Theology in 1964 and from 1964-1966 pastored Primm Tabernacle Church, a tiny Black congregation in Pomona said to have had just seven members. How small was it? For his pulpit, Murray used his sister’s dresser.

David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, to which you can come as you are. Email, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.