A police department in Georgia is under investigation after using an image of a Black man as a target during a firearm safety class for civilians.
On Saturday, the police department in Villa Rica, near Atlanta, held the event. It posted on its Facebook page photos of participants shooting at targets featuring a life-sized image of a Black man. The man on the targets is pointing a gun and wearing a beanie.
The Villa Rica Police Department took the photos down, but not before many took screenshots and shared online, where the department was widely criticized. The police department addressed the backlash in a Facebook post.
“It was never our intention to be insensitive, inflammatory or offensive to anyone,” they said. The department also said it respects the “honest opinions of our fellow citizens” and apologized for “any offense we may have caused.”
According to NBC News, Villa Rica’s chief of police, Michael Mansour, said the targets with Black men are used all over the state for training and the department also used other targets depicting individuals who were white and Asian during the class. The officer who posted the photos, who Mansour declined to identify, mistakenly posted photos of only the Black targets that were used.
“It’s just an innocent mistake, but it was a mistake,” Mansour said. “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 McDougal told The Telegraph that the images made him “personally embarrassed” and that the “incident does not reflect the values of this community.” McDougal has opened a probe into the department.