Three rookie Miami police officers fired two days before Christmas joked in a group chat with other cops about using predominately black neighborhoods for target practice, reports the Miami Herald. “Anyone know of an indoor shooting range in Miami?” one officer asked. “Go to model city they have moving targets,” replied another. “There’s a range in overtown on 1 and 11. Moving targets and they don’t charge,” added a third. Officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes and Bruce Alcin told an investigator that they were joking and simply commenting on what they’d seen in the city during their training. They said they weren’t trying to offend anyone. Alcin is African-American, and Valdes has a black grandfather.
But their remarks about two of the city’s historically black communities, Overtown and Model City, upset colleagues and supervisors and came as the department is under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice following a spate of questionable police shootings. For department leaders, the officers’ remarks made them a liability both in future civil and criminal cases and in the community. Miami’s police union president says the officers should have been reprimanded but not fired. Bergnes, Valdes and Alcin were among a class of about 30 police officers who went through Miami’s police academy together last year and continued to communicate through a WhatsApp chat they called Post-22. The trio was found on Dec. 19 to have violated multiple department policies involving social media, courtesy and responsibility. All three were considered probationary officers at the time they were let go, which allowed Miami’s city manager to fire them without going through the procedures afforded full-time officers.