A National Guardswoman was horrified when she went to a local firing range in Miami for some target practice, and found that an old mugshot of her brother was being used as one of the targets. She was even more shocked when she learned that the mugshots were set up as part of the Miami sniper training program. The mugshot photos were riddled with bullets, including a shot to the eye and forehead of her brother.
PBS reports that police in North Miami have suspended the sniper training program following complaints regarding the use of old mugshots. Army Sgt. Valerie Deant spoke about the moment she found the mugshot of her brother and how she reacted.
“She broke down in tears when she saw her brother Woody Deant, who was arrested 15 years ago, pictured in a lineup of other suspects with bullet holes through his forehead and eyes.”
On the sheet of mugshots that included Deant were five other black men. This led many to wonder if the Miami sniper program was bringing race into their training. However, North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis says that there is a good reason for all six men on the page to be black — it is necessary.
“We’ll have six pictures of people who will look very similar. We have an array for black males, we have an array of white and Hispanic males. And the purpose for this is to be able that they can have the sniper identify a particular individual that they’re given a small picture of and looking down range at this array of six to be able to pick the proper target out based on what was presented to them in intelligence.”
In other words, the department uses people of all colors in their program; however, all six individuals on each sheet will look similar. Though Deant was surprised to see a mugshot of her brother from 15 years ago being used for target practice, it seems this wasn’t the first time. According to CNN, Police Chief Dennis says the same “target inventory” has been used for “more than a decade.” Dennis notes that there are 22 images in all, including a white man holding a gun to a white woman’s head and one of now-dead al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
This issue was brought to the department back in December for investigation. Upon reviewing the case, the department noted that no violations of law occurred and no department policies were violated. However, realizing “how important this issue is during today’s climate,” Dennis says the Miami Police Department will no longer use mugshots of people they have arrested, but instead will purchase photos from a commercial vendor. In addition to purchasing from commercial target vendors, snipers are also being told to completely destroy their targets upon completion of practice.
What do you think? Was the Miami sniper training out of line in anyway? Should mugshots from real arrests be used for training by any departments, or is that insensitive?