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3 Miami police fired for jokes about the use of black neighborhoods as shooting galleries

Miami police officers received instructions from the commander.

(Reuters)

An internal investigation by Miami Police earlier this month led to the firing of three rookie cops who joked in a WhatsApp chat with other officers about the use of two of the Florida city is primarily African-American neighborhoods for target practice.

Officers Kevin Bergnes, Miguel Valdes and Bruce Alcin, two days before Christmas, despite claim of researchers that their comments were meant as a joke and that they are not meant to offend anyone. The Miami Police department’s Public Information Office confirmed FoxNews.com that the three officers were fired, but said it was not making any statements about the case.

An internal affairs memo obtained by the Miami Herald revealed that the three officers were part of a class of 30 recent police-academy graduates in a WhatsApp chat called the Post-22. In response to a June 30 post by another officer about shooting ranges, Bergnes is called in a suburb of Miami before suggesting a Bank of America — “they even give money” — and then Model City, where the majority of the city’s shootings take place.

“Go to the model city they have moving targets,” Bergnes said.

“There is a range in overtown on 1 and 11. Moving targets and they have no cargo,” Valdes said about 40 minutes later, referring to another neighborhood, and then joked that “they even run scenarios and pretend to shoot heroin.”

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Alcin added: “Valdes, he wouldn’t understand, until he work there.”

A number of officials in the WhatsApp chat took offense at the comments and one, Lawanda Lawson, warned them that their comments are offensive.

“I can take a joke, but that was unpleasant,” she wrote. “And even tho it was probably not intended that way, becareful of ur words may come back to bite you.”

Bergnes was later reprimanded and made to apologize via WhatsApp, and the trio thought that the case was over. An internal investigation, however, was launched on Dec. 19 the department found that the trio violated several department policies related to social media, courtesy and responsibility.

If all three of the officers were considered to be probation officers, Miami city manager was able to fire without going through the procedures given to full-time agents. The fire led to a rapid retort of the chief of police of the city of the union, who said that the three should have been reprimanded instead of losing their jobs and that the real problem was that the neighborhoods mentioned in the chat.

“The FOP does not agree with the joke texts created about NW 1 Avenue and 11 Street,” Javier Ortiz, the president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, told FoxNews.com in a statement. “But maybe the manager should focus on why that specific area is spoken about so often.”

Ortiz added: “Everyone at the MPD know that when it comes to shootings in the City, that ward is completely out of hand. But, the manager would rather focus on text-messaging than the senseless murders and violent crime in the Overtown/Model urban areas.”

Stephan Lopez, the lawyer of the three fired officers, said that the trio was fired not because of their comments, but because the Miami Police department is under heavy scrutiny for a number of dubious police units, and that the texts came at a time of growing tensions nationwide between police and the African-American communities.

Lopez added that one of the three officers, Alcin, is African-American and other, Valdés, has a black grandfather.

“They made these three to be racists,” said Lopez FoxNews.com. “But these are just rookie agents that are not yet on the force long enough to know better.”

Lopez said that he has yet to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, if he hopes to solve the problem and for the officers recovered without intervention of the court.

“I plan to make the city time to correct the error and I hope this without a lawsuit,” he said, adding. “I don’t shy away from litigation, however.”

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