Three Miami officers fired over target practice ‘jokes’
An internal Miami police investigation has found three rookie officers joked in a group chat about using the city’s primarily black neighborhoods for target practice, a newspaper reported yesterday.
According to investigation documents obtained by the Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/2hxDZZp), the officers told an investigator they were only joking. The newspaper said officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes and Bruce Alcin were fired two days before Christmas. It said Alcin is African-American and Valdes has a black grandfather.
The remarks upset colleagues and came as the department is under supervision of the US.
Department of Justice following a series of police shootings. “It was senseless, young and reckless. It shouldn’t be tolerated,” Justin Pinn, an African-American member of a civilian board tasked with monitoring Miami’s federal policing agreement, told the paper. “Officers are supposed to be guardians not warriors. I don’t think what they expressed reflects the values of the department.”
Attorney Stephen Lopez, who represents the three officers, said the remarks were taken out of context and that there was no misconduct. “Two of the officers have black blood pumping through their veins,” he told the newspaper. “To say that they’re racist is outrageous and ludicrous.” Police union president Lt. Javier Ortiz maintained that the officers should have been reprimanded, not fired since their “messages were in poor taste, but weren’t in any way racial.”
The incident happened June 30 as the three officers were responding to other rookie officers’ questions about shooting ranges in a WhatsApp chat they often communicated in, the paper said. According to documents obtained by the Herald, the officers-in-training shared department information on that thread. — AP