Michigan police chief tries to explain department’s shooting ‘targets featuring Black people’

Michigan police chief tries to explain department’s shooting ‘targets featuring Black people’

A police department located in a neighborhood just outside Detroit, Michigan, is in hot water after a Boy Scouts field trip to the department’s shooting range revealed officers are using photos of Black men holding guns as target practice.  

VICE News reports the Boy Scout troop discovered the targets while exploring the headquarters of the Farmington Hills Police Department in April.

Although Farmington Police Chief Jeff King apologized during a public city council meeting on June 27 and the targets have been removed, King also explained that the department uses a variety of images, many of which are of white people. But the day the Scouts were visiting, the only targets caught on camera were images of Black men.

RELATED STORY: Five Black women and girls died every day in 2020, mostly from gun violence, a report finds

“A diverse group of targets were on display the day of the tour—not just targets featuring Black people,” King said. “Unfortunately, this was not accurately depicted in the photographs, as the photographs only depict a small area of the department’s firing range and a select number of the targets that were presented and discussed during the group tour.”

According to the 2020 census, Farmington is 62.1% white and 18.5% Black.

King added that the targets were consistent with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and were meant to “represent a mix of both threat and non-threat targets,” King said, according to CNN.

Boy Scout troop touring the headquarters of Farmington Hills PD in April spotted these shooting practice targets. Our media and our law enforcement perpetuate racism and violence. Detroit area police #Busted#DemVoice1 #wtpBLUE https://t.co/aLtqhmIcup pic.twitter.com/pGCOj8cVwk

— Joan Hussey (@Joanhussey1) July 5, 2022

“The difference between a threat assessment target and a silhouette target is threat assessment targets allow you to identify if a threat is there. A silhouette target is only for target acquisition. … Our targets consist of a mix of genders and races and are shown holding a variety of items,” King added.

A cub scout troop discovered the Farmington Hills PD uses shooting range targets of pictures of ONLY Black men! This is disturbing! If this is what they use for target practice, I can only imagine the racially biased behavior officers exhibit on duty! https://t.co/sVPEqBp1P8

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) June 26, 2022

On a June Facebook post, Dionne Webster-Cox, an attorney representing a family who’d accompanied their child on the field trip to the police department, described the targets of the Black men as “a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.”

“These organizations and municipalities must practice radical honesty in acknowledging their negative biases and find ways to change. Otherwise, you will have even bigger discrimination cases and more lawsuits against the city of Farmington Hills, its school districts, and the police department. They are already busting at the seams with suits. This community does not need an overly aggressive police officer who wants to flex his authority. Otherwise, we will have fatal cases like Patrick Loya in Grand Rapids or George Floyd. No matter how many defenses the police offer to justify this incident, to have school children or adults exposed to this practice is ignorance,” Webster-Cox wrote.

Webster-Cox told Fox 2 Detroit that she did not intend on filing a lawsuit, but is working to improve racial bias in policing in the community.

CNN reports that the department is currently under legal review.

“We have been told there are reasons those images are used to address implicit bias in training, but we believe it’s important to understand the full context in which they are used,” Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett said. “We will also be comparing our training practices with regional municipalities and providing a full report on our findings to the community.

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