State Watch

Michigan police apologize, will conduct review after images of Black men used for target practice

(file/MGN photo)

A police chief in Michigan has apologized after photos revealed his department was using targets with images of Black men for shooting practice. 

Jeff King, the chief of the Farmington Hills Police Department, said at a city council meeting late last month that the department is conducting a legal review of the matter.

King said he takes responsibility for how the training was conducted and apologized to the community, the department and the city council. He said one of the biggest focuses for training is exposure to people based on certain situations and not what they look like. 

“We have a diverse community,” he said. “Our community, as well as our department is diverse, inclusive, and that doesn’t stop at our training.” 

He said he will share the findings of the review “as soon as possible.” 

Attorney Dionne Webster-Cox said in a Facebook post last month that a family reported photos of Black men “riddled” with bullet holes in target practice to her law office following a Boy Scouts trip to the police department. 

She said the family asked her to speak on their behalf and to share the photos they took. 

“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,” Webster-Cox said. 

The incident comes amid heightened focus on relations between law enforcement and communities of color. The city of Akron, Ohio, was in a state of emergency on Monday after police released video of officers shooting 25-year-old Jayland Walker, who was Black, scores of times following a traffic stop.

King said “nothing hurts me more” than when the Farmington Hills community itself is hurting. 

“I can’t overlook this, but I promise you this. This will make us stronger, this will make us better, this will make us more transparent, and this community overall will come out better for this,” he said. 

He said the targets that the departments use are consistent with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. He said the images in the practice area are meant to reflect a combination of threats and non-threats. 

King said a “threat assessment target” is for determining if a threat exists, while a “silhouette target” is only for target acquisition. He said targets are a mix of genders and races and hold a range of different threatening and nonthreatening items. 

He said 85 percent of the targets are Caucasian and 15 percent are Black. 

“Having a mix of these non-threat and threat targets in an active training situation is the preferred method to train officers and prepare them to make a split-second decision when it comes to a lifesaving, life-taking or nonthreat situation,” King said. 

He said any future visits by members of the public to the department will include a full explanation of the background of the targets, and the department apologized to the Boy Scouts group for not fully explaining them.

Tags Michigan

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