Target Practice (or, holy shit, that’s my brother’s face!)

When it’s time for target practice
And the cops work on their aim
Then a simple, boring bull’s-eye
Isn’t scary—far too tame!
You need criminals to shoot at—
Or, at least, so goes the claim,
So in Florida, the targets have real faces!

After practice, then, these targets,
With their faces full of holes,
Having served their proper purpose
Training cops for their patrols,
Are discovered to be photographs
Of living, breathing souls—
Though, of course, they group the targets by their races!

See, they have to practice shooting
On the faces they might see
So they see them as mere targets
Not as folks like you or me—
If we see the perps as people
Then, I think you will agree,
It makes shooting them more difficult by far!

But by treating them as targets
They are easier to shoot
So we waste no time in thinking
We could spend in hot pursuit!
The effects of such a practice
Are, I think, beyond dispute—
Cos it’s sort of how these things already are.

From the Miami Herald:

Sgt. Valerie Deant peered into a stack of garbage at a Medley shooting range last month and saw a photo of her brother. His face had bullet holes.

Turns out that North Miami Beach police used a photo lineup of men arrested 15 years ago to help its sniper team practice its marksmanship. All of the photos were of black males, one of whom happened to be Woody Deant.

The North Miami Beach Police department says it does not discriminate–it has targets of all races. It was an astonishing coincidence that Sgt. Deant happened upon a target that included her brother.

Mind you, the notion of including any faces at all is… unorthodox.

Using photo lineups for target practice doesn’t seem to be a common practice among local police departments. Miami-Dade, the county’s largest force, doesn’t do it; nor does Miami or Miami Beach.

H.T. Smith, a prominent local attorney and civil rights icon who served in the Army during Vietnam, said his unit never considered taking target practice shooting at images of real people — not even the president of North Vietnam.

“Of course it’s offensive. You shouldn’t be shooting at faces anyway,” Smith said. “It’s inconsiderate. And it starts at the top. In a multi-ethnic community you should not have a system set up with one set of people.”

I’ll take the department at their word, that they have multiple sets of targets. I have not seen it, but apparently they sent out an email with multiple sets of targets (including one of Osama Bin Laden, on the off chance he showed up in Florida, I guess). It’s still dehumanizing, and I suspect that is precisely the point. People don’t look like bull’s-eye targets. They don’t even look like the classic silhouette target in all the movies. People look like people. And the way to get better–quicker, less hesitant, more at ease–with shooting people, is to practice shooting at targets that look like people.

In a five paragraph statement Dennis said the department realizes how, taken out of context, the photo of the six black males in the photo lineup may appear to be offensive.

Yeah, I know not everyone will agree with me, but I kinda think that even completely in context, the photo is entirely offensive.


  1. says

    I was at a shooting range in Las Vegas, once, and we had to pick a target from a wall full of examples. Most of them were photos of real people, dressed up as stereotypical criminals — black clothes, black stocking caps, etc. Oh, and most (but not all) also had black skin.

    We picked the least personal looking one: a stylized outline. Only after we got it did we see, nicely outlined in light gray, the locations of organs sketched in. It was an anatomy lesson! We got to shoot people in the pancreas, or the kidney, or the larynx. The whole experience was extremely creepy.

  2. kevinalexander says

    To prepare themselves for real life scenarios they could have pictures of young men reaching for their wallets or holding their hands up.

  3. StevoR says

    Didn’t they use pictures of Trayvon Martin – complete with bag of skittles that same way post his murder? Seem to recall reading that somewhere prob’ly via FTB.

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