Well, there's no sensitive way to put this: This month, the North Miami Beach police were caught using mugshots for target practice. And if that sounds outrageously offensive, inflammatory and dehumanizing, well, yeah.
The initial revelation of the department's wrongdoing occurred in one of the most uncomfortable and personal ways possible. As detailed by the Miami New Times, a member of the Florida Army National Guard stumbled upon a pretty shocking sight when she was visiting a Miami-are shooting range: A picture of her brother, riddled with bullet holes. It was that discovery which spurred an investigation by local affiliate NBC 6, which uncovered that the North Miami Beach police had been doing this for some time — using mugshots of black men for sniper training.
As you might expect, this sparked a horrified and outraged reaction from community members, black activists, and local government officials.
Six mugshots in all have been revealed from the police target practice scandal, and as you can see below, it's pretty harrowing. Even moreso considering these people pictured aren't even notorious criminals — according to the Miami Herald, one of the men pictured, Tyquan Kelly, had his mugshot taken a whopping nine years ago. His mother, who attended a City Hall protest, made her disgust pretty clear.
It’s real sad. I’ll be back here if you kill my son.
Obviously, something like this exists in a broader context. Over the last several months, protests have raged across the country, proclaiming a simple truth that shouldn't have to be said, but seems sadly necessary: "black lives matter." After the controversial killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford and Tamir Rice last year (the first three of which did not result in an indictment, with Rice's case still pending), activists and advocates are rightly cutting no slack about this kind of casual dehumanization of black bodies.
I say "bodies" specifically because clearly, that's what this was — it's not as though the people shooting at these targets really knew the men pictured in any way beyond their visages.
The North Miami Beach police have apologized for the incident, as has Mayor George Vallejo, and City Manager Ana Garcia, and that's a start, even if it doesn't heal the wound. Hopefully, whoever was actually responsible for this disastrous decision will someday come to regret it, even if we never get such a public mea culpa.