Earlier in January the North Miami Beach Police caused nationwide controversy after it was discovered that they were using mug shots from people in the community for target practice, specifically, all black men.
— NBC 6 South Florida (@nbc6) January 15, 2015
The disturbing practice was uncovered last month when the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band went to a local shooting range for their annual weapons qualifications training.
When the soldiers arrived at the shooting range they were horrified to see that North Miami Beach Police snipers were using mug shots from their department for target practice. Even more disturbing was the fact that Sgt. Valerie Deant, one of the soldiers on the firing range that day, actually recognized one of the people in the mug shots. She quickly recognized her brother’s 15-year-old mug shot.
After this story went viral, it got the attention of a clergy group who decided to take action on Twitter. The hashtag #UseMeInstead was born.
Over the past week, clergy from across the country have been tweeting at the North Miami Beach Police department, pictures of themselves, asking police to #UseMeInstead.
— JoelleColvilleHanson (@PastorJoelle) January 17, 2015
According to the Washington Post,
Rev. Joy M. Gonnerman and other pastors chatted about the story on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Facebook group and discussed how to respond to something that was emblematic of a deeper, systematic problem.“Maybe we ought it make it harder to pull the trigger, and volunteer to put pictures of their family up,” Gonnerman said. Another poster said she would send a photo of herself to the North Miami Beach Police Department.
So Rev. Lura N. Groen of Houston created aFacebook event, and, along with Gonnerman and others, invited friends to post pictures of themselves in their clerical clothing.
— Lura Groen (@lura_groen) January 18, 2015
The effort was “motivated by our service to Christ and his call to love our neighbors,” Gonnerman told The Post.
— Beth Maynard (@beth_may) January 18, 2015
— Graeme Fancourt (@graemefancourt) January 18, 2015
— Jenna Couch (@PastorJenna) January 18, 2015
These pastors and other clergy take a large risk by coming out against this disturbing practice by the North Miami Beach PD. Despite a forced politically correct apology well after the fact, Police Chief J. Scott Dennis, was originally completely callous about the entire ordeal stating that he felt his officers did absolutely nothing wrong.
It is highly likely that a portion of the clergy’s congregations hold feelings similar to those of Chief Dennis and speaking out against this action could have been detrimental to one’s religious practice.
— Erik Christensen (@erikchrist1973) January 18, 2015
“We initially started thinking if a whole lot of us, in our clergy collar and worship attire, sent our photos to them, it would make a really powerful statement,” Rev. Kris Totzke, a pastor in Texas, told The Post. “Then, it really snowballed, and we got people all over the country and of all different faiths.”
— katya ouchakof (@canoeistpastor) January 17, 2015
— Mike P (@BrotherMikeOLF) January 17, 2015
— Sean (@FrSeanFerrell) January 18, 2015
Gonnerman says she has a stack of 8X10 photos of mostly white pastors who are helping to serve as allies in this battle. She planned to mail these photos to the North Miami Beach Police Department over the weekend.
“Essentially,” she said, “we’re saying: We’re watching, we’re paying attention to this.”
The response of clergy from around the country has been overwhelming and serves as a heartening reminder that humanity is alive and well.