Three new police officers were fired for making comments on a group chat about using Miami's primarily black neighborhoods for target practice, the AP reports. Officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes, and Bruce Alcin were let go on Dec. 23, after an internal affairs investigation concluded that they violated department policies, reported the Miami Herald, citing documents it obtained. The remarks angered local civil rights activists keeping tabs on a department that is currently scrutinized by the US Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive force. The Miami police department said it would only confirm that officers Bergnes, Valdes, and Alcin were fired, but did not explain the reasons behind the dismissals. Attorney Stephan Lopez, who represents the three officers, told the AP that his clients were joking and that the comments were taken out of context.
Lopez pointed out that Alcin is African-American and Valdes has a black grandfather. The incident happened June 30, when the three officers responded to other rookie colleagues' questions about shooting ranges in a WhatsApp chat they often used to communicate, the paper said. According to documents obtained by the Herald, the officers-in-training shared department information on that thread. It said the documents show Bergnes sarcastically suggested the friend looking for a shooting range try a Bank of America, adding "they'll even give you some cash." He then suggested Model City—the police district that includes Liberty City and handles the bulk of the city's shootings—as another location. Valdes suggested a particular intersection in the Overtown community, according to the paper. It added that Alcin followed up, saying Valdes "wouldn't understand" until he's worked there. (Read more Florida stories.)