Florida police use images of black men for target practice

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

North Miami Beach police are facing scrutiny after it has been discovered that they used images of African-American men for target practice.

This was discovered last month by one of the sisters of the men whose image was used. Police snipers were shooting at the Medley Police Firearms Training Center; however, after they left, the Florida National Guard came in.

Sgt. Valarie Deant, a national guardsman, saw the target images that the police left behind and noticed a very familiar face among them: her brother Woody. It was his mugshot, taken years ago.

“And I was like, why is my brother being used for target practice?” Deant said to NBC Miami. The image of her brother’s face had a bullet hole through his eye and his forehead. Deant said she broke down and cried.

“She said, ‘Oh my God, they use you as target practice,'” Woody Deant said. “People that are out there who are supposed to be protecting us are using us as target practice.”

Deant’s mugshot was from an arrest made 15 years ago. He spent four years in prison for a drag-racing accident that claimed two lives. However, he says those days are long behind him and that he is now a family and career man.

North Miami Police Chief J. Scott Dennis told NBC Miami that they didn’t violate any regulations and that the practice of using images of real people is not limited to his department. He claims that the use of real pictures is important for facial recognition training and that they do use images of non-blacks as well.

“Our policies were not violated. There is no discipline that’s forthcoming from the individuals regarding this,” Dennis said.

Dennis did say that he is concerned about the use of Deant’s photo because it happens to be an individual who was arrested by the same precinct and somebody who would be on the streets of North Miami Beach.

NBC6 spoke to several law enforcement agencies, and they all said that they only use computer generated images distributed by commercial vendors and not images of real people.

“The use of those targets doesn’t seem correct. The police have different options for targets,” said retired FBI agent Alex Vasquez.

“This can create a very dangerous situation, and it has been ingrained in your subconscious. What does that mean when someone comes across Woody or another person on the street?” said the Deants’ attorney, Andell Brown.

“So they see them as criminals before they get a chance to [say] I surrender,” Valarie Deant said.

Police chief Dennis said that they will continue using target photos of real individuals once they increase their inventory of images.