Police Chief Ends Mugshot Shooting Practice, Will Stop Using Black Male Teenagers’ Photos

National Guardswoman Valerie Deant walked into target practice in Miami Beach to find police snipers had been shooting at her brother. His mugshot, along with several other photos of black males, were being used as target practice, creating a media storm. The North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis is responding to the outcry, saying he will end the mugshot practice, but insisting his department does not have racial issues.

The mugshot that caught Deant’s eye was of her brother, 15-years-ago when he was arrested in connection to a drag racing incident.

She told NBC, “there were like gunshots there, and I cried a couple of times.”

She called her brother, Woody Deant, who was only 18-years-old when the mugshot was taken.

“The picture actually has like bullet holes. One in my forehead and one in my eye. …I was speechless.”

He wasn’t alone. The national guardsmen found six mugshots left over on the practice range, all belonging to African-American men. Police and military personnel share the practice range.

NBC 6, which initially broke the story, contacted law enforcement officials to find out if using real mugshots for practice was standard. All law enforcement agencies reported that they use commercially produced targets. Retired FBI agent Alex Vasquez also insisted that the mugshot use seemed wrong.

“The use of those targets doesn’t seem correct. 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.”

Whether standard or not, the North Miami police are under increasing scrutiny. Police Chief J. Scott Dennis sent out a mass email to media outlets, showing them other images used on the range, including Osama bin Laden and one of a man holding a gun to a woman’s head.

CNN reports that there were 22 images in all.

Dennis also insisted there are minorities on the sniper teams. He explained he would not discipline any police officer, since the incident did not violate department policy.

Still, the police chief realizes the mugshot practice incident caused emotional distress and promised to end it.

“I immediately suspend the sniper training program as we conduct a thorough review of our training process and materials, ordered commercially produced training images, and opened an investigation into the matter.”

Most importantly for the North Miami police department’s PR, practice targets will be destroyed immediately after use.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, some people see the mugshot incident as a sign of a systemic problem, like Miami Committee on State Violence member Muhammed Malik.

“We see this act as a symptom of a larger systemic issue that devalues black and brown lives.”

For critics of police policy, not using mugshots for target practice is a start, but it doesn’t end a potentially deeper issue.

[Image Credit:Mashroof/Wikimedia Commons]

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