Michigan officials apologize for utilizing images of Black men as practice targets
By: April Carson
After it was discovered that the police department in Michigan has been using images of Black men as targets at its shooting range, the chief issued an apology.
Dionne Webster-Cox, a lawyer in Farmington Hills, Michigan, posted the images to Facebook on behalf of a family who had visited the Farmington Hills Police Department as part of a Boy Scouts field trip.
A target depicted as a Black man with a weapon is seen in one of the photographs. One of the targets is visible in a photograph that includes children gathered around it.
“This neighborhood does not need an overly aggressive police officer who wants to flex his power,” said Webster-Cox in a Facebook post. “To expose schoolchildren or adults to this method is callousness, no matter how many defenses the cops put up to defend it.”
“I spoke on their behalf,” said Webster-Cox. “They didn't want their identity revealed.” WXYZ reported that the family asked her to “represent them.”
The city's police chief, Jeff King, apologized last Monday at a council session.
The mayor also issued an apology: "This training exercise was completely inappropriate and offensive, and it does not reflect the values of our community."
"I'll take the blame for this one," he added. "This community, my department, my city council, my city manager, and I apologize to each and every person in this room."
“I can't forget about it, but I promise you this: this will make us stronger, better, more transparent, and the community as a whole will be better for it.”
According to The Guardian, King said that the usage of images is in line with the Michigan Police Department Standards Commission and that the training targets are 85 percent white and 15 percent Black.
"I would like to see that number be more equitable," he said, adding that the department is "committed to doing better."
"This training exercise was completely inappropriate and offensive, and it does not reflect the values of our community."
Officer Kevin Clark of the Farmington Hills Police Department defended the use of targets in a WXYZ interview, saying that officers shoot at black, white, and grey targets and that using images of racialized people is intended to assist them overcome implicit bias.
“We have to learn how to work with people that we are uncomfortable with,” he said.
“I've never been trained to shoot at a certain race, gender, or age,” added Clark.
The mother of one of the kids on the field trip claims to have a different perspective.
“What I observed is that they were really Black men in hoodies who were actually holding weapons and that they were genuinely Black men, rather than black, grey or white,” she continued.
Another parent said they were “appalled” by the use of images of Black men as targets.
“I think it's appalling that in this day and age, we are still having to have these conversations,” she said. “I don't think that any child, regardless of what color their skin is, should have to see that.”
The Farmington Hills Police Department released a statement apologizing for the incident.
"The use of racially insensitive targets during a training exercise is offensive and inappropriate," the department said in a statement. "We recognize the seriousness of this issue and we are taking steps to ensure that all officers receive culturally responsive training."
In a Facebook statement, the City of Farmington Hills claimed that after a “comprehensive review," they discovered that the department uses 11 white targets and two black targets.
During last week's council meeting, King apologized to the Scout troop for not providing a full explanation of those targets. He also said he'd be ordering an urgent legal analysis of training systems and objectives, which would be finished before next fall's training season.
The news that the targets had been taken down while the city conducts an investigation was revealed by Mayor Vicki Barnett to CNN.
"As the mayor of the city, I was not made aware that these were the types of targets being used by our public safety department. As soon as I learned of this, I took action to have them removed immediately," Barnett said in a statement to CNN.
“We've been told there are reasons those pictures are utilized to address implicit bias in training, but we feel it's critical to understand the complete context in which they're employed,” she added. “We'll also compare our training procedures with regional municipalities and give a comprehensive report on our findings to the public.”
"We understand the concerns that have been raised and we take them very seriously," Barnett continued. "The city is committed to ensuring that all of our training practices are respectful and free from bias of any kind."
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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