When national guardsmen ,Â Sgt. Valarie Deant, went to the Medley Police Firearms Training Center in North Miami beach, she saw something extremely disturbing. It was a mugshot of her brother and five other men, riddled with bullet holes. The North Miami police department was using the mugshots for target practice.
“I was like why is my brother being used for target practice? There were like gunshots there. And I cried a couple of times.â€ Valarie said.
The North Miami Police admitted to using the photos for target practice, and although all of the photos were of black men, Police Chief J. Scott Dennis claims the use of the mugshots was not motivated by racial profiling.Â Â He explained that it was a crucial training exercise for facial recognition and it is used widely by other agencies. When a victim is asked to identify a suspect, the suspect’s mugshot is placed on a page with other people who resemble the suspect. So if a mugshot of a white man were used, all of the surrounding photos would be of white men as well. Deantâ€™s mugshot was from an arrest made 15 years ago. He spent four years in prison for a drag-racing accident that claimed two lives. However, he says those days are long behind himÂ and that he is now a family and career man.
Even though Deant’s family did not find the police chief’s reason acceptable, he still insists that the officers didn’t violate any regulations.
He claims that the use of real pictures is important for facial recognition training and that they do use images of non-blacks as well. â€œOur policies were not violated. There is no discipline thatâ€™s forthcoming from the individuals regarding this,â€ Dennis said.
Dennis did however have an issue aboutÂ the use of Deantâ€™s photo because it happens to be an individual who was arrested by the same precinct and somebody who would be on the streets of North Miami Beach.
The Deant family will not be letting this go any time soon. They contacted an attorney, Andell Brown, who found the practice of using human images as targets disturbing.
â€œThis can create a very dangerous situation. 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 notâ€ Brown said.
Police chief Dennis said that they will continue using target photos of real individualsÂ once they increase their inventory of images.