Police Target Practice Aims for Sensitivity

Michael Sasso, Tampa Tribune, Jan 23, 2006

TAMPA—In recent years, Florida law enforcement agencies have been pondering an unusual question of political correctness: If your officers fire at targets that are black in color, is the agency sending a racist message?

Not wanting to take any chances, the Tampa and St. Petersburg police departments, among other law enforcement agencies, have switched to more colorful targets.

“It never was a big issue or a big debate,” said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy, whose agency switched to blue silhouette targets from black ones two years ago. “Nowadays, you can never be too sensitive, and we felt that it was the right direction to go.”

Traditionally, the target at government and private gun ranges has been a black silhouette of a human form. Black silhouettes aren’t meant to represent any race, and they tend to cost less than colorful targets.

However, in recent years, two companies that sell targets to gun ranges have noticed a change in orders from Florida law enforcement agencies.

In every other state, black targets outsell blue, orange and other colors, said Guy Wynn, general manager of National Target Co. of Frederick, Md.

But in Florida, the blue targets outsell the black, he said.

“Florida’s where it all started,” Wynn said. “They [Florida police agencies] wanted to know if we could do it in blue. Other states do it, too, but it seemed to start in Florida.”

L.E.T., short for Law Enforcement Targets, of St. Paul, Minn., has noticed the same phenomenon. Blue and green silhouettes have started catching on nationwide, said Jeff Brown, the company’s marketing director.

Concerns about race are behind the trend, Wynn and Brown said.

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