Sgt. Valerie Deant of the Florida Army National Guard arrived at the range with fellow soldiers just after police snipers from North Miami Beach had completed a practice session. What she discovered enraged her: Her brother’s photo amid mug shots of other Black men used as targets for the police to hit.
“I was like why is my brother being used for target practice?” Deant told NBC News. “There were. . . gunshots there.”
Captain Jack Young, who manages the shooting range, confirmed Deant’s account. He said the targets were selected by the officers. Police chief J. Scott Dennis told NBC that the decision to use mugshots of Black men may have been a mistake—but that it did not violate any rules.
There was no mention of the sickening, immoral irresponsibility of using images of real-life men as firing targets, particularly in this time of racial discord in America, where case after case of Black men being gunned down by cops has charged ongoing demonstrations and outrage across the country. Many Black men already feel like a figurative target. Now these officers have done so literally? What might be the psychological effects when they are out on the streets of cops practicing their shooting skills by imagining the faces of Black men?
Woody Deant was arrested in 2000 in connection with a deadly drag race when he was 18 years old. Now 32 and after four years in prison, he was aghast when he learned what his sister saw.
“Now I’m being used as a target?” he told NBC. “I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me as. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I work 9 to 5.”
Major Kathy Katerman told HuffPost that the department has multiple lineups for target practice, some featuring only white men, others all Latino and one features photos of only women.
“The public thinks there should be one woman and one white man and one black, but that’s not really what the test is about,” Katerman said. “We have targets of all races.”
But that does not dismiss the racially insensitivity of this case. Further, Dennis said to NBC South Florida that officers used poor judgment, but that no one would be reprimanded.
This is not the first or worse case of insensitivity when it comes to target practice with police. In 2013, a police sergeant was fired for using the image of slain 17-year-old Trayvon Martin as a target at a shooting range.