— NBC 6 South Florida (@nbc6) January 15, 2015
The North Miami Beach police department was discovered last month to be using mug shots of African Americans for sniper practice at a firing range.
NBC News Channel 6 in Miami broke the story Thursday, after hearing from a member of the Florida Army National Guard who showed up with her unit for weapons qualification at the same commercial firing range used by the police and discovered the targets left behind, an array of six African Americans.
North Miami Police Chief J. Scott Dennis, while conceding that his department “could have used better judgment,” denied any racial profiling. He said the department uses pictures of people of all races for target practice.
But the day National Guard Sgt. Valerie Deant showed up, she saw only African Americans. And what really upset her was that among the mug shots riddled with bullet holes was one of her own brother, who had been arrested 15 years earlier in connection with a drag racing incident that resulted in two deaths.
“I was like why is my brother being used for target practice?” Deant told the TV station. She called her brother, Woody Deant, who said he was “speechless….The picture actually has like bullet holes,” Woody Deant said. “One in my forehead and one in my eye.”
“Now I’m being used as a target?” he told the station. Woody Deant served four years in prison and said “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.”
The station quoted Dennis saying that the sniper team includes minority officers, and that the practice was important for facial recognition drills.
“Our policies were not violated,” Chief Dennis told the station. “There is no discipline forthcoming from the individuals regarding this….We utilize an array of pictures…We have an array for black males. We have an array for white and Hispanic males.”
“What we are very very concerned about…is that it happened to be someone arrested by this agency. That individual would be someone who would be on the streets of North Miami Beach.”
The story comes at a sensitive time for relations between police and African Americans nationally as a result of the highly publicized killings of unarmed African Americans Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York at the hands of white officers.