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Police officers fired after joking about using black neighborhoods for a 'shooting range

Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images

Three Miami police officers were fired before Christmas after joking about using predominantly black areas as a "shooting range."

Officers Bruce Alcin, Kevin Bergnes and Miguel Valdes made the comments in a group chat on the app WhatsApp with other law enforcement officials at the end of June, according to an internal affairs investigation conducted earlier this month.

The exchange between the officers, as the Miami Herald reported, was as follows:

"Anyone know of an indoor shooting range in Miami?"

"Go to model city they have moving targets."

"There's a range in overtown on 1 and 11. Moving targets and they don't charge."

The Model City police district, according to the Herald, handles a majority of Miami's shootings.

Aside from the racially charged remarks, Bergnes also suggested a local Bank of America branch for a shooting range because "they'll even give you some cash."

A fourth law enforcement official, Officer Lawanda Lawson, reportedly warned the trio that their remarks could be detrimental.

"I can take a joke but that one was distasteful," she said in the group chat, according to the Herald. "And even tho it probably wasn't meant that way, be careful ur words can come back to bite u."

“But the bank is ok right?” Bergnes reportedly replied.

Alcin is a black police officer, and Valdes has a black grandfather, the Herald reported. The three officers told investigators that they were just joking and did not mean to be offensive with their remarks.

Miami's police union president told the Herald that the officers should have been reprimanded for the comments but should not have been fired as the "messages were in poor taste but weren't in any way racial."

Stephan Lopez, the officers' attorney, accused the city of taking the messages out of context.

"My clients are young kids," he told the Herald. "They're young officers, and they were off-duty."

"I can't let their careers be tarnished when they engaged in no misconduct," Lopez added.

But other officers and supervisors had concerns about the remarks, especially with growing tensions between police and black communities.

"It was senseless, young and reckless. It shouldn't be tolerated," Justin Pinn, a black civilian board member who helps monitor Miami's federal policing agreement, told the Herald. "Officers are supposed to be guardians, not warriors.  I don't think what they did [reflects] the values of the department."

On Dec. 19, the three officers were found to have violated multiple department policies which included courtesy, responsibility and social media, according to the Herald.

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