A Georgia police department garnered a lot of backlash and is now under investigation after using an image of a Black man as a target during a firearms safety class for civilians. What made it worse was when the department posted photos of it on social media. The police department in Villa Rica, Georgia held the event on Saturday and then posted on its Facebook page photos of participants aiming their guns at targets that featured a life-sized image of a Black man, NBC News reported.
The image of the black man on the targets is pointing a gun and wearing a beanie.The photos on the social media platform have been removed but screenshots of it have since widely circulated, sparking outrage.
The Villa Rica Police Department responded to the backlash in a Facebook post on Wednesday, stating, “It was never our intention to be insensitive, inflammatory or offensive to anyone.” The department also said it respects the “honest opinions of our fellow citizens” and apologized for “any offense we may have caused.”
Michael Mansour, Villa Rica’s chief of police, also responded, saying the targets of Black men are used across Georgia for training purposes and that during the class the department also used other targets of individuals who were white and Asian.
However, the officer who posted the photos, “mistakenly” posted photos of only the Black targets that were used.
“It’s just an innocent mistake, but it was a mistake,” Mansour told NBC News. “And I’m very transparent in saying that we messed up. But at no time will I accept people telling me I’m a racist, or our department is a racist because we made a mistake.”
Villa Rica Mayor Gil MacDougal also made a statement regarding the incident, saying he was “personally embarrassed” by the photos and said that the “incident does not reflect the values of this community.” He has launched an investigation into the department.
The NAACP of Carroll County, where Villa Rica is located, sent an open letter to the department’s chief officer on Wednesday, calling the target “extremely offensive.” The group also requested a meeting with city leaders to discuss the incident.
“These types of targets have been used by other police departments within the U.S. and have been deemed racially inappropriate and unacceptable,” wrote NAACP Carroll County president Dominique Conteh. Mansour said he plans to meet with Conteh and McDougal next week to discuss the incident.
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