A Michigan police chief has apologized after photos revealed his department was using targets with images of black men for shooting practice.
Jeff King, the Farmington Hills Police Department chief, told a city council meeting late last month that the department was conducting a legal review of the case.
King said he takes responsibility for the way the training was conducted and apologized to the community, the department and the city council. He said one of the main goals of the 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 it doesn’t stop at our training.”
He said he would 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 to her law firm photos of black men ‘riddled with bullets’ during target practice at the following a scout trip to the police department.
She said the family asked her to speak on their behalf and share the photos they took.
“These organizations and municipalities need to be radically honest in acknowledging their negative biases and finding ways to change. Otherwise, you’ll 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 as the focus shifts to relationships 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, dozens of times after a traffic stop.
King said “nothing hurts me more” than when the Farmington Hills community itself suffers.
“I can’t ignore it, but I promise you. It will make us stronger, it will make us better, it will make us more transparent, and this community as a whole will come out better,” he said.
He said the targets used by the departments are consistent with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. He said the footage in the practice area is meant to reflect a combination of threats and non-threats.
King said a “threat assessment target” is used to determine if a threat exists, while a “silhouette target” is only used for target acquisition. He said the targets are a mix of genders and races and contain a range of threatening and non-threatening objects.
He said 85% of the targets are white and 15% are black.
“Having a mix of these non-threatening and threatening targets in an active training situation is the preferred method of training officers and preparing them to make a split-second decision when it comes to a life-threatening situation, vital or non-threatening,” King said.
He said any future visits by members of the public to the department will include a full explanation of the background to the goals, and the department apologized to the scout group for not fully explaining them.