Residents in Farmington Hills, Michigan are demanding answers from its local police department after a Boy Scouts troop that was touring the police department’s building discovered that the targets in the shooting range were all images of Black men.
Residents expressed their concerns about targets at a city council meeting on Monday.
“I wanted to express my outrage when I found out that actual images of Black men were used for target practice,” said a woman speaking at the podium.
“I’m a proud Army Desert Storm veteran, and I can tell you at no point during my training for that task was there ever images of anyone,” said a man speaking at the podium.
The Farmington Hills Police Department denied the claims and insisted it used images of both Black and white people for target practice.
“I have never been trained to shoot at any particular race, gender, age, or anything of this nature,” said Farmington Hills Police Officer Kevin Clark. “The reason various targets are used is to work through what everyone has. It’s an implicit bias.”
A resident at the meeting says pictures from a parent who was on the tour with the Boy Scouts troop shows differently.
“What I see here is basically, these are actually Black men in hoodies and they’re holding guns. And they are actually images of Black men. They’re not black, gray, or white,” the resident said as she showed the pictures.
Farmington Hills Councilman Micheal Bridges questioned why the targets were used instead of silhouettes, especially when twenty percent of the Farmington Hills population is Black.
“Silhouette would have been most appropriate; I don’t see a good reason to use those targets, I don’t really at all,” Bridges said.
In response, Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King said the targets are used to train officers to “make a split-second decision to make a life saving or non threat situation.”
He also reiterated the department uses various targets of all colors and genders.
King says an internal review shows the department uses 11 white targets and two Black targets, “consistent with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) and the City’s demographics.”
Dionne Webster-Cox, a lawyer hired by the family of a child on the trip, says a Freedom of Information Act response shows the department possesses those images, but there’s no evidence it uses them.
“They ordered this target – they had lots of groups, Caucasians, it was very diverse,” Cox said. “Now how is it that you ordered these, but the only ones you are actually using is the Black men?”
Cox said she doesn’t plan to file a lawsuit but she wants to bring awareness to prevent racial profiling.
At the city council meeting, King said he wanted to be open and transparent with the community.
“I’ll take this one on the chin,” King said. “I apologize to each and every person in this room.”
“I assure you that we don’t want to hide anything from you,” said Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett. “You are more a part of this community than you know.”
Barnett said the images have been removed and an investigation is underway.