A Georgia chief of police denied his department is racist and issued an apology after they came under fire for using a Black man’s photo as a target at a firearms safety class that was organized for civilians. According to NBC News, the Villa Rica Police Department also shared the photos in question on its Facebook page.
Photos circulating on social media showed an image of a Black man being used as a target and attendees pointing their guns at it – during the event organized by the Villa Rica Police Department on Saturday. The target image used shows a Black man in a beanie aiming a gun.
Though the police department later deleted the photos it posted on its Facebook page, screenshots that were taken and widely circulated have sparked outrage on social media. Following the backlash, the Villa Rica Police Department on Wednesday released a statement on Facebook saying it was never their “intention to be insensitive, inflammatory or offensive to anyone.”
“However, we respect the honest opinions of our fellow citizens and apologize for any offense we may have caused,” the police department added.
Villa Rica police also said the targets it used in the firearms class “depict realistic human images and were part of a package which included target images of people from various ethnic groups.” The department’s chief of police, Michael Mansour, told NBC News that the officer who shared just the photos of Black targets did that by mistake.
“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.”
This adds up to other incidents where police departments have been condemned for using images of Black people for target practice. Last year, a legal review was initiated by a Michigan police department after images of Black men being used as targets were circulated.
In a Wednesday interview with The Telegraph, Villa Rica Mayor, Gil McDougal, said the photos had left him feeling “personally embarrassed,” adding that the “incident does not reflect the values of this community.” An investigation into the department has since been opened by the mayor.
The NAACP of Carroll County also labeled the target as “extremely offensive” and asked to meet with city officials to talk about 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,” NAACP Carroll County president, Dominique Conteh, stated.