North Miami police use faces of black men as targets

Thank you Michael Winter, USA TODAY


Miami

North Miami Beach police are facing criticism for using mug shots of black suspects for target practice.

One of the six bullet-riddled faces was the brother of a Florida National Guard sergeant, who was shocked when she arrived at the gun range after police snipers last month. Her brother had served four years in prison for a fatal drag race as a teenager, but turned his life around after his release in 2004.

North Miami Beach Police J. Scott Dennis defended his sniper team, which he said includes minority officers. No policies were violated, no racial profiling was involved and none of the officers would be disciplined.

He acknowledged, however, they could have used better judgment, because one target — Woody Deant — had been arrested by his department and “would be someone that was on the streets of North Miami Beach.”

Dennis told the NBC station that photographic targets were “vital for facial recognition drills,” and they would continue to be used after the department expands its inventory of images, which also includes white and Latino faces. But his officers won’t use booking photos of suspects arrested by North Miami police, and they will be instructed to remove their targets when they’re done at the Medley Firearms Training Center.

Several federal and state law enforcement agencies and five local police departments disputed Dennis’ claim that use of human faces for target shooting is commonplace. All use only commercial targets.

Deant’s sister, Valerie, said she “cried a couple of times” when she saw her brother’s 18-year-old face with bullet holes through his forehead and right eye.

Woody Deant was “speechless” and outraged. “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.”

The Deants also wonder why officers would shoot at faces of African Americans at a time when relations with police are strained over the shooting deaths of unarmed black men.


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