The North Miami Beach Police said Friday that it has suspended the sniper training program until a review is conducted, after reports showed that mug shots of African-American men were being used as targets at a shooting range for police training. Sgt. Valerie Deant found the mug shot of her brother Woody Deant, who was arrested 15 years ago as a teenager for drag race, at the training center last week.
North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis denied allegations of racism at his department, but said that the officers should have used better judgment. He also agreed to how offensive the photos with bullet holes may seem, if taken out of context, Miami Herald, a local newspaper reported. Dennis also added that no disciplinary action will be taken against anyone in the department since no policies were violated.
"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," Dennis said, according to Miami Herald.
Valerie, who plays the clarinet in the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band, found the photos last month at the training center. Woody’s mug shot was from the year 2000, when he took part in a drag race, which killed two people.
“I was like 'why is my brother being used for target practice?'" Valerie asked, according to NBC News, which reported the story first last week. “There were like gunshots there,” she said. “And I cried a couple of times.”
Woody had served four years in jail after the drag race. “The picture actually has like bullet holes,” Woody said, according to NBC News, adding: “One in my forehead and one in my eye. … I was speechless."
“Now I’m being used as a target?” Woody said, according to NBC News, adding: “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.”
Law enforcement agencies only use commercially produced targets, but not photographs of human beings for target practice, NBC News reported, citing sources at federal and state law enforcement agencies and local police departments.
“This can create a very dangerous situation,” Attorney Andell Brown, who was contacted by the Deants, said, according to NBC News, adding: “And it has been ingrained in your subconscious what does that mean when someone [police] comes across Woody or another person on the street and their decision-making process on using deadly force or not.”