North Miami Beach Police Used Black Men’s Mug Shots for Target Practice

A member of the Florida Army National Guard discovered her brother’s bullet-riddled photo at a shooting range.
(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Jan 18, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Turmoil over the recent killings of black men at the hands of police is far from dissipating, and another controversy is giving protesters against police violence more reason to be outraged.

Snipers with the North Miami Beach Police Department were discovered to have been using mug shots of African American males as targets at a shooting range in Medley, Florida.

The practice came to light after Sgt. Valerie Deant, a member of the Florida Army National Guard, found a bullet-riddled photo lineup in the trash when she and her fellow soldiers were training at the range last month. One of the men photographed was her brother.

“I was like, ‘Why is my brother being used for target practice?’ ” Deant told NBC Miami. “There were like gunshots there. And I cried a couple of times.”

Woody Deant was 18 years old when he was arrested in connection with a fatal drag race in 2000. He served four years in prison.

“I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me,” he told the TV station. “I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work 9 to 5.”

North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis said that using actual photos is part of training and that the officers, who didn’t violate any policies, will not receive disciplinary action. He also said in a press conference that the department practices on photos of white and Hispanic males as well.

A number of police departments, however, said that using images of real people for target practice is unusual at best and indicates questionable judgment, NBC Miami reported.

“The use of those targets doesn’t seem correct,” retired FBI agent Alex Vasquez told the TV station. “The police have different options for targets. I think the police have to be extra careful and sensitive to some issues that might be raised.”

Dennis said in a statement that his department understands how, taken out of context, the photos may cause offense, reported the Miami Herald. He has suspended the sniper program and is now reviewing the training process.

“These young men are literally being used for target practice,” Andell Brown, a lawyer for the Deant family, told Time. “And if those in the leadership don’t see anything wrong with that practice, then we have a very serious issue.”

The family is considering taking legal action.