A Michigan police chief has issued a public apology after reports that targets with images of Black men were seen at his department’s target practice area.
Concerns about the images were initially raised in April, after a Boy Scout troop toured the building used for target practice by the Farmington Hills Police Department, according to CNN affiliate WXYZ.
A photo taken by an unidentified individual on the tour shows at least three hanging targets of Black men holding weapons and a group of children gathered around one of the posters.
The targets have since been removed, Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett confirmed to CNN.
“I’ll take this one on the chin, I apologize to each and every person in this room, this community, my department, my city council, my city manager,” Police Chief Jeff King said during a June 27 city council meeting. “I can’t overlook this, but I promise you this, this will make us stronger, this will make us better, this will make us more transparent and this community overall will come out better for this.”
The images of the targets used were consistent with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and were intended to “represent a mix of both threat and non-threat targets,” King said.
“The difference between a threat assessment target and a silhouette target is threat assessment targets allow you to identify if a threat is there. A silhouette target is only for target acquisition,” he added. “Our targets consist of a mix of genders and races and are shown holding a variety of items.”
The chief said 85% of the targets used during training are Caucasians and 15% are Black.
King also apologized to the scout troop “for not providing a full explanation of those targets.”
‘We are not your target,’ lawyer says
A family who joined the Boy Scouts field trip to the police department said they noticed the photos of Black men being used for target practice during a tour of the gun range, attorney Dionne Webster-Cox said in a June 22 Facebook post.
Webster-Cox, who said the family did not want to be identified but asked her to “speak on their behalf,” held a news conference for the community to discuss the issue.
“For these children, we need to say no, this is not acceptable,” Webster-Cox said during the conference. “You shouldn’t have saw it, it shouldn’t have been there in the first place… It’s not complicated at all. It’s very simple. We are not your target.”
“This community does not need an overly aggressive police officer who wants to flex his authority,” she wrote. “No matter how many defenses the police offer to justify this incident, to have school children or adults exposed to this practice is ignorance.”
About 18.5% of the Farmington Hills population is Black, according to the US Census Bureau.
Review is underway
A legal review is underway and the purpose of the targets will be explained to any future visitors, King said at the city council meeting.
“We do everything with a focus on our community,” he said, adding that the target training is meant to help with implicit bias.
“It’s a critical point not only to what we engage and what we assess as a threat, but more importantly, what we don’t interpret as a threat, and we condition any kind of implicit bias, if it’s there, to not have officers focus on a specific demographic. It’s backed by the science, it’s backed by the literature, it’s backed by everything in our training as a whole,” he said.
Mayor Barnett said all of the images used in these situational awareness training exercises have been taken down during the city’s review.
“We have been told there are reasons those images are used to address implicit bias in training, but we believe it’s important to understand the full context in which they are used,” Mayor Barnett said. “We will also be comparing our training practices with regional municipalities and providing a full report on our findings to the community.”
CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.