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Three Miami police officers are probably wishing they had a better sense of humor after their poor attempts got them fired. Because of their bad jokes, the Miami police department is recovering from an embarrassing incident where the three young officers made offensive, racist statements in a text message group chat with other officers.
Although it is sadly not uncommon to hear about racism within the ranks of law enforcement, the context of this incident is both alarming and shocking. The officers involved were jokingly discussing using two predominantly African-American neighborhoods for shooting/target practice. While the officers insisted that they were joking, the department found the "jokes" in such poor taste that the officers were fired after an internal affairs investigation.
What Happened Exactly?
The officers that were fired all got caught up joking about using innocent bystanders as target practice in response to a legitimate question about where to find a local, indoor firing range. Several officers in the department were using the messaging application WhatsApp as a way to keep up, socially, with each other, but also would share department information, and ask questions about work.
When one officer asked about the firing ranges, another replied back in essence that going to a bank would provide better target practice. Then, the other officers chimed in suggesting going to two different African-American neighborhoods for target practice. Not surprisingly, other officers on the group chat took offense and reported the conversation.
It likely did not help the officers' cases that the police department was already under federal court ordered monitoring due to excessive use of deadly force, and these officers were openly joking about shooting innocents for target practice, which clearly would constitute excessive and unreasonable use of deadly force.
Implicit Racial Bias
Racism is not confined to any particular race, though studies have shown that the majority of people across all races share the same preconceived (racist) notions about race. While the Miami department, and the fired officers' representatives, assert that the messages were not racist, it is difficult to understand them in any other context.
They rely on the fact that one of the officers that made the statements was African-American. However, as researchers have been learning, racism is learned based on environmental factors, and is more often than not implicitly expressed. This means that an African-American can discriminate against other African-Americans without even realizing it. Unfortunately, implicit racial bias is a very real thing in society today. Recognizing it is the first step in avoiding racial bias.