Police

Police Chief Defends Using Black Male Photos as Target Practice

Actually, officers shoot at human faces in an array of colors, says chief

|

The North Miami Beach Police Department is facing criticism after officers were discovered using the mugshots of black men as targets during weapons training. "People that are out there supposed to be protecting us are using us as target practice," commented Woody Deant, one of the men pictured, to NBC Miami. 

The practice was uncovered by Deant's sister, Florida National Guard Sgt. Valerie Deant, who happened to arrive at the Medley Firearms Training Center as police snipers were leaving. She noticed their paper targets, which featured the images of six black men, including her brother's 15-year-old mugshot marred by two bullet holes. 

North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis defended the practice by pointing out that white and Hispanic faces were also used. Perhaps Chief Dennis could consider that the issue isn't a lack of diversity in the human faces police are trained to see as targets but the fact that police are trained to see human faces as targets

Dennis told NBC that no department policies had been violated and the officers would continue to use mugshots for target practice, though they would expand the photo inventory and begin to exclude people booked by the department. He also said that shooting at real human photos was common law enforcement practice, and one necessary for facial recognition drills.

Several other law enforcement agencies told NBC Miami that the practice is not common. "The use of those targets doesn't seem correct," said Alex Vasquez, a retired FBI agent. "The police have different options for targets. I think the police have to be extra careful and sensitive to some issues that might be raised."

Advertisement

NEXT: Joel Klein: Mayor de Blasio Must Close Failing Schools or "Pay a Big Price"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Woody Deant, who killed two people? Nice.

  2. I wonder how quickly I would be arrested if I was found to be using pictures of LEO’s as target practice?

    1. You’re assuming you would live long enough to be arrested?

  3. What’s wrong with the simple silhouette targets?

    Remember this?

  4. Perhaps Chief Dennis could consider that the issue isn’t a lack of diversity in the human faces police are trained to see as targets but the fact that police are trained to see human faces as targets?

    Isn’t that what snipers are supposed to do?

    1. Yeah, I think that you’re actually tracking with the concept that most people have missed.

      With regards to showing a piece of paper with six black faces, the point is that someone has to successfully describe the correct person to the shooter. Imagine one cop on a radio trying to tell a far-away sniper who to shoot.

      If the paper target showed a bunch of diversity, the caller would simply tell the shooter to shoot the black dude. When the target shows six black dudes, the caller has to be more specific in his description.

      That said… using mugshots of real people is pretty messed up.

      1. using mugshots of real people is pretty messed up.

        Why? It’s just pictures.

      2. A cop on a radio telling a sniper who to shoot by describing the target’s facial features, would be an epic fuckup in the making.

        What a horrible idea, one that should never be even countenanced by training.

        Seriously, look at that line-up. Now, you describe the one that should have his head blown off, to a sufficient degree of specificity and accuracy that no mistake is possible, based on your description of his facial features alone. Lunacy.

  5. If you have been arrested it seems like you are fair game to be shot at. This makes complete sense to me.

  6. Why use head shots for target practice?

    I’m not an expert, but I don’t remember seeing any ‘just head shot’ targets at the range. I was taught to aim for the chest.

    Are they teaching these cops to shoot at the head now?

    Why?

    1. Sniper targets are often just heads or busts.

    2. It does sort explain why they are such terrible shots.

    3. FTA:

      …who happened to arrive at the Medley Firearms Training Center as police snipers were leaving.

      Sniper training.

      1. I wonder though. Since every rifle to most journalists is an assault rifle, every cop with a gun to most journalists is probably a police sniper.

        That being said, if they were legitimately snipers, then using faces is good and common practice.

        But mainly, why does North Miami Beach PD have snipers in the first place.

        1. I suppose snipers could be handy for certain situations? Better to have a sniper and not need him, then to need a sniper and not have him.

          1. Better to have a sniper and not need him, then to need a sniper and not have him.

            Evidence requested.

            1. I’m looking at that statement from the “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” perspective.

        2. They have to be ready to confront the menace of Key Deer.

      2. In American Sniper (the book), Kyle explains that head shots are rare (“It’s not like the movies”), and SEAL snipers are trained to shoot centre mass.

  7. This could never happen in New York – they don’t practice. They have developed a method of spasmodically pulling the trigger and spraying an area with unaimed fire.

    1. Maybe the mugshots represented bystanders?

    2. It’s unaimed because of the damned 12 pound trigger pull mandated by NY…to prevent “accidents” like Akai Gurley.

  8. Jesus. I don’t even know what the fuck to say about this.

    I have been reduced to the expressiveness of anonbot.

    1. That guy really knows waht time it is. WOw.

  9. I wonder how many snipers Miami-Dade needs.

    Any other state like to make a bid on a major metropolitan area? Palm trees, sunshine, etc. Anyone? Anyone? Delivery and setup not included.

    1. A bunch of the municipalities down here would love to split the state in half (South Florida starting just north of Tampa/Orlando, of course).

      You could maybe make an argument that the city of Miami needs a sniper. But North Miami Beach? Biggest crimes they deal with are fights between 85 year old retired New York transplants at the deli and maybe someone shoplifting from the mall in Aventura.

  10. As a solid-black man with a series of concentric, circular birthmarks on my chest, I’ve long been offended and intimidated by this sort of behavior.

  11. Black or not, criminal or not, a guy’s picture shouldn’t be used for cop target practice.

    1. Much less a *living* guy. It suggests that maybe he *shouldn’t* be living, and that gunfire is the preferred way for him to stop living.

  12. I don’t use “people” targets at the range any more. Oh, they have them, and I don’t care if YOU want to use them, but I don’t use them any more.

    Cops? Yeah – nice. How about you just buy the “looks like a mugger” targets rather than shooting at pics of actual PERPS.

    hth

    SMOOCHES

  13. Ludicrous! People are people, targets are targets, targets should be real people. Is their a little voodoo going on here? Like poking a voodoo doll, only in this case shooting holes through the picture? I don’t like it nary-a-bit.

    1. Whoops, I meant to say, shouldn’t be targets, sorry.

  14. I’d be fine with it if they were white guy’s mug shots!

    Or we could do the sane, mature thing and stop making everything into a racial issue.

  15. He also said that shooting at real human photos was common law enforcement practice, and one necessary for facial recognition drills.

    Can anyone explain to me what ‘facial recognition drills’ means in this context? Is the chief trying to say that if tells his sniper to shoot a guy in the face that using faces for target practice assures him that his snipers are able to recognize a face when they see one? Not the face of a particular person, mind you, rather that the sniper will not confuse some other anatomical part or perhaps an inanimate object for the true desired target, some guys face.

    I mean, you can’t be to careful that the idiot you hired to be a sniper is able to distinguish a face from a hole in the ground. Isn’t that what officer training is all about, anyway? To make sure that officers are cognizant of the most basic of things? Because lack of training is always cited for the reason why officers are not aware on the most basic things evident to world, things obvious to you and me. Things like, I don’t know, it’s illegal to beat a person in handcuffs, who is no threat to anybody, just because he’s a smart-ass. But nobody trained him on that fact, so, now you’ve been trained. It’s OK, just don’t let it happen again.

  16. North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis defended the practice by pointing out that white and Hispanic faces were also used.

    Black, white, yellow, etc. doesn’t matter. It is entirely fubar for them to be using pictures of real people for target practice.

    Dennis told NBC that no department policies had been violated and the officers would continue to use mugshots for target practice

    “Nothing to see here, peasant. Move along.”

    Several other law enforcement agencies told NBC Miami that the practice is not common.

    See above. Procedures were followed. Move along.

  17. My understanding is that military sniper training is focused on center of mass and/or the “triangle” (shoulders to nose? a little fuzzy).

    Headshots are only taken when there is no other target and the shot has to be taken now, now, now.

    Typical SWAT amateurism, it seems to me, that they want to play soldier and think that head shots are what snipers do.

    Facial recognition, I can kinda see that, if they have a pic of the target and are confirming identity. There’s lots of other ways to train that, though.

    However, combining facial recognition drills with headshot drills strikes me as a bad idea, as you are reinforcing having your snipers take a bad shot. The optics on this are horrible, and I suspect that where there is smoke, there is fire.

  18. This policy doesn’t seem fair to women. Why not use their faces? Why not use police officers faces? Does that make sense, too? I say this in sarcasm, but if you think of the absurdity of this policy, given recent events in NY and Ferguson, you get the idea. Why give anyone a reason?

    This optics of this are bad and potentially invites trouble from those who don’t understand that while this idea is ridiculous to most people on any level, those who are offended just make take serious offense at this and do more than shoot at paper targets.

  19. “The use of those targets doesn’t seem correct,” said Alex Vasquez, a retired FBI agent.

    Everyone knows the FBI uses a photo of Vicki Weaver holding her infant child.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.