South Florida police were criticized for claiming there is nothing racist about its habit of using mugshots of black suspects it has arrested in the past for target practice.
After all, North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis stated, some of the officers on the sniper team shooting the targets happen to be black themselves.
However, one black woman found it extremely insensitive, especially considering one of the bullet-riddled mugshots used was of her own brother, whom was arrested in 2000 by the same agency.
Valerie Deant, a sergeant with the Florida National Guard, made the discovery last month when she and fellow soldiers were using the Medley Firearms Training Center, a shooting range owned by the City of Medley, a municipality in Miami-Dade County.
Deant’s group were at the range for their annual weapons qualification training, which had just been used by the North Miami Beach police snipers, when they made the discovery.
Chief Dennis insisted the targets were only used to train officers in facial recognition targeting skills and that the practice is widely used.
According to NBC Miami:
“There were like gunshots there,” Deant said. “And I cried a couple of times.”
She immediately called her brother, Woody Deant, who was 18 years old when the picture was taken.
“The picture actually has like bullet holes,” Woody Deant said. “One in my forehead and one in my eye. …I was speechless,” he added.
North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis admitted that his officers could have used better judgment, but denies any racial profiling.
He noted that the sniper team includes minority officers. Dennis defended the department’s use of actual photographs and says the technique is widely used and the pictures are vital for facial recognition drills. But the Deant family questions why officers were firing targets with images of real people, in this case African-Americans, especially at a time when relations between minority communities and law enforcement are so tense.
“Our policies were not violated,” Dennis said. “There is no discipline forthcoming from the individuals who were involved with th
But Woody Deant, who did four years in prison after his 2000 arrest, expressed outrage.
“Now I’m being used as a target?” said Woody Deant. “I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me as. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work 9-to-5.”
A Miami activist group issued the following statement:
The Miami Committee on State Violence is outraged and disgusted at the blatant racist action of the North Miami Beach police officers using the pictures of Black men as shooting range target practice. We see this act as a symptom of a larger systemic issue that devalues Black lives everyday through the lack of economic opportunity and various institutions, including Law Enforcement.
The fact that these officers won’t be disciplined and the NMB Police Chief, J. Scott Dennis, says that these acts show no implication of racism speaks to how engrained is the idea that Black lives are not worth what other lives are in our society. Nor have they ever been in the history of this country under our current economic system. It is blatant, unapologetic acts like this one that fuel this Black Lives Matter movement which continues to have young, Black leaders from across the country organize for social and economic justice in their communities.
Considering there is no law or policy against the practice, perhaps citizens should begin using photos of actual cops for targets at their local shooting range.
But I would imagine that would somehow lead to criminal charges.