Family Members, Activists Decry Use of Mug Shots for Target Practice

Press conference Monday at North Miami Beach City Hall

Family members and activists held a press conference outside North Miami Beach City Hall Monday to express outrage over members of the city's police department using mug shots of African-American men at a shooting range for training.

Members of Florida's Democratic Black Caucus and family members were joined by Woody Deant, one of the men whose mug shot was used, at the 9:30 a.m. press conference.

"I've had to live and re-live seeing a bullet through my forehead and a bullet through my eye at the hands of the North Miami Beach Police Department. I have had to ease the fear of my wife, my mother and my loved ones," Deant said. "No one deserves this dehumanizing treatment regardless of black, white, Hispanic males or female. We are all human beings."

North Miami Beach Police said they have halted the practice and said they will only use commercial targets from now on, but family members remained outraged Monday.

As NBC 6 first reported, Deant's sister, Florida National Guardsman Sgt. Valerie Deant, had visited a shooting range in Medley last month when she discovered North Miami Beach Police snipers used her brother's photo as one of several mug shots used for target practice.

The family says the mug shot is 15 years old and was taken when Deant was arrested for drag racing.

North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis admitted that his officers could have used better judgment, but denied any racial profiling, saying the technique is widely used and the pictures are vital for facial recognition drills.

"Our policies were not violated," Dennis said, adding that white and Hispanic photos are also used. "There is no discipline forthcoming from the individuals who were involved with this."

Attorneys for the Deant family say they're outraged and want answers.

"My clients are disturbed, extremely distraught and concerned as anyone should be. No one should have the police in their community using their image as target practice," lawyer Andell Brown said. "This is a case in point of an out of control police culture. The family wants answers, and they want to ensure that it stops, not just here in North Miami Beach but anywhere it is used."

The Democratic Black Caucus said they'll be filing public records requests to all Miami-Dade law enforcement agencies requesting all documents relating to fire arm training procedures, practices and copies of targets used.

"We are shocked that North Miami Beach are using mugshots for target practice, we want to ensure that other law enforcement agencies are not using them as well," Florida DBC president Henry Crespo said. "As of late, the relationship between our residents and law enforcement is under immense scrutiny nationwide. African American's and other ethnic group images in general should not be practice targets."

North Miami Beach Police released a statement Monday reiterating that photos will no longer be used for training.

"We have fostered good relations with our community for decades, by providing excellence in policing and community involvement. We regret that this one incident could have set back the progress we have made," the statement read. "We will strive to be more sensitive to all and remain focused on being a community mind-ful police department. We see this challenge as an opportunity to examine all policies with in our police department."

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