Ex-cops Joke: Use Blacks for Target Practice
Three former Miami police officers joked in a group chat with other cops about using predominately Black neighborhoods for target practice, the Miami Herald reports.
An internal affairs investigation discovered the chat this month.
“Anyone know of an indoor shooting range in Miami?” one officer asked.
“Go to model city they have moving targets,” replied another.
“There’s a range in overtown on 1 and 11. Moving targets and they don’t charge,” added a third.
Officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes and Bruce Alcin told an investigator that they were joking, or just commenting on what they’d seen in the city during their training. They say they weren’t trying to offend anyone. Alcin is African-American, and Valdes has a Black grandfather.
Colleagues and supervisors were reportedly upset about their off-the-cuff remarks about two of the city’s historically Black communities. The comments came as the department is under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice following a spate of questionable police shootings.
For department leaders, the officers’ remarks made them a liability both in future civil and criminal cases and in the community.
“It was senseless, young and reckless. It shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Justin Pinn, an African-American member of a civilian board tasked with monitoring Miami’s federal policing agreement. “Officers are supposed to be guardians not warriors. I don’t think what they expressed reflects the values of the department.”
However, Miami’s police union president said the officers should have been reprimanded but not fired since their “messages were in poor taste, but weren’t in anyway racial.”
Attorney Stephan Lopez, who is representing the officers, said the city has taken his clients’ remarks out of context and blown them out of proportion.
“My clients are young kids. They’re young officers and they were off-duty” when making their comments, he said. “I can’t let their careers be tarnished when they engaged in no misconduct.”