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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.

According to investigation documents obtained by the Miami Herald, 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,” Justin Pinn, an African American member of a civilian board tasked with monitoring Miami’s federal policing agreement, told the paper.

“It shouldn’t be tolerated. 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 Lieutenant 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 on 30 June, 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.

It said the documents show Bargnes, who is known by friends as a wise-guy, sarcastically suggested the friend looking for a shooting range try a branch of Bank of America, adding: “They’ll even give you some cash.”

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He then suggested Model City – the police district that includes Liberty City and handles the bulk of the city’s shootings – as another potential location.

Valdes suggested a particular intersection in the Overtown community, according to the paper. It added that Alcin followed up, saying Valdes “wouldn’t understand” until he had worked there.

The next day, an officer warned the men that their words were offensive even though she didn’t think they were racist.

The report said the three were found on 19 December to have violated multiple department policies. They were considered probationary employees at the time, which gave Miami’s city manager the leeway to fire them without undergoing the procedures afforded full-time officers.

Source-the guardian.com


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