A South Florida police department said it will no longer allow officers to shoot at images of people they have arrested following a local news investigation.
NBC 6 reported that North Miami Beach police officers used booking photos of black men for target practice at a gun range. The sister of one of the men on the paper target coincidentally was at the gun range after the officers for a National Guard firearms certification, the news station reported.
Police Chief J. Scott Dennis said the officers did not violate any policies, but they should have used better judgement.
In a pair of statements, the North Miami Beach Police Department said "this is not a race issue," but added that it will stop using the targets anyway.
In the statements, emailed to BuzzFeed News Friday, the department says that the images were only used by members of the sniper team. The team has only two members, a black officer and a Latino officer, and they train with real images several times a year "because snipers are taught in schools by the experts to train as real as possible."
The statements also reveals that the six images of black men — which were "taken at least 10-15 years ago" — were among a larger group of 22 pictures used for target practice. The department forwarded additional pictures to BuzzFeed News.
The statements also say that the original photos were "taken out of context" and that there was "no mal-intent or prejudice involved" in their selection. However, Chief Scott Dennis launched an investigation into the use of the photos and the department will purchase future photos.
"From this point forward, targets will be purchased from commercial vendors and not made with photos from within our police department," one statement explains.
On Monday, the city's mayor joined the call against using the photos, saying he wants a law passed to ensure that the practice is banned permanently.
"North Miami Beach is better than this," George Vallejo told the Miami Herald in a statement. "We are a richly diverse city, a fact our residents are very proud of, and as Mayor I will not allow anything to disrupt the harmony and goodwill that exists in our community."
It's not uncommon for law enforcement agencies to train by shooting at images of people, but paper targets are generally stock images.
See NBC 6's investigation here.
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at email@example.com.
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