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A group of boy scouts discovered that a police department outside of Detroit uses images of Black men as shooting practice targets, as reported by Vice News. The troop had spotted the targets, with some of them pierced with bullet holes, when the troop toured the headquarters of Farmington Hills Police Department in April.


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A group of boy scouts discovered a police department outside of Detroit uses images of Black men for shooting practice targets, as reported by VICE News. 

The troop spotted the targets, with some of them pierced with bullet holes, while touring the headquarters of the Farmington Hills Police Department in April.

From a photo in the tour, six white scouts were looking at the targets, featuring an image of a Black man with a menacing look and pointing a gun—while a Black boy scout stood behind them. 

VICE News reported that an unidentified person who attended the visit, who attorney Dionne Webster-Cox represented, first reported the use of the images.

Webster Cox spoke to VICE News, saying:

“When those children were exposed to those images, to me it was the potential detrimental effects on how they view Black men and Black people that was indescribable. It’s literally profiling for the Black man. You’ve got young police officers and this is what they’re being trained on?”

At a public city council meeting on Monday, Mayor Vicki Barnett stated that the targets, now removed, are subject to a legal review. At the same meeting,  Farmington Police Chief Jeff King apologized.

“I’ll take this one on the chin,” King said. “I apologize to each and every person in this room, this community, my department, my city council, my city manage.” 

King also told the meeting that the images were purchased but would not say where from, or if they were of actual people.

 However, he told VICE News that the usage of these images of the Black men were taken out of context. 

“A diverse group of targets were on display the day of the tour—not just targets featuring Black people,” said King. “Unfortunately, this was not accurately depicted in the photographs, as the photographs only depict a small area of the department’s firing range and a select number of the targets that were presented and discussed during the group tour. I can’t overlook this.”

In his explanation, King said the department used images of a dozen different people, ten white and two Black. This is in line with Michigan’s Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, and as the city’s demographics—Farmington Hills is 18.5 percent Black and 62 percent white, the 2020 U.S. census recorded.

Jon Piggott, Assistant Chief, told VICE News that officers normally train on silhouettes and bull’s eyes when measuring accuracy. Piggott also said that they only use images of people once they start training officers on threat assessments. 

Even though default targets are all holding guns, their hands can be swapped out to carry innocuous items such as a beer can, a cellphone, or nothing.

“Because now, it’s not a question of whether or not the officer can hit the target,” Piggot said. “The question now is… whether or not the thing that they’re looking at is a danger to them or not.”

For Webster-Cox, this explanation neither denied nor refuted that Black men were primarily presented as targets the day the white Boy Scout troop toured the shooting gallery.

“This is not acceptable. You don’t want your children to just start off hating,” she said.

This is not the first time the department was under scrutiny for its shooting practice targets. In July 2021, the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union filed a freedom of information request that asked the police department to disclose images of “any gun range targets used by the police department from January 2020,” according to Webster-Cox. 

The Michigan ACLU received images of other non-Black targets that were not on display when the Boys Scouts were on tour.

The Minneapolis Police Department has been called out for turning a blind eye to white nationalists and white supremacy movements online. This came out after a two-year investigation by the state government’s top civil rights enforcement agency. The agency found that Minneapolis cops “engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination.” 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights launched the probe days after the police murder of George Floyd in 2020. They examined over 700 hours of body camera footage, nearly half a million pages of police documents, and use-of-force reports. This is in addition to hours of police training sessions, years of police data, and 15 community listening sessions. Findings are listed in a critical blistering 72-page report that brims with evidence of MPD’s discriminatory policing. The report is a scathing call out of city leadership that has allowed the department to enable “unlawful policing practices that undermine public safety.”

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