VILLA RICA - The City of Villa Rica has released the external investigation report related to the citizen gun class offered by Villa Rica Police Department that used targets depicting a Black man with a gun.
The incident happened in June. Photos and video taken during VRPD's gun class were posted to the police department's Facebook page and many members of the community were outraged. The post went viral, receiving thousands of comments, and resulted in dozens of stories, both local and national.
The department apologized after the incident and an investigation was ordered by Villa Rica Mayor Gil McDougal. The external review was conducted by retired LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar, a 50-year veteran of law enforcement.
According to the 111-page report, the police department intended no racial bias but did show a "lack of awareness and judgment" in their choice of target.
The investigation also found no evidence of biased policing within the department, according to the report.
Additionally, reviewed data from the past five years related to VRPD's policing. Out of 36,254 traffic stops during that time, only 4 of those resulted in complaints of racial bias, the report says.
"Out of these stops, 10,519 or 28.7% involved individuals who were identified as African American. During the same period, a total of 4,339 vehicle searches were conducted, either pursuant to impoundment, probable cause, or consent. Among these searches, 39.6% or 1,719 involved African American individuals. The racial composition of Villa Rica, according to the most recent ACS data, shows that the African American population accounts for 40.2% of the total population. The percentage of African American individuals involved in traffic stops and vehicle searches is generally proportionate to their representation in the community."
Despite the results of the investigation, Dekmar does recommend reinforcement of anti-bias training annually. The City Council approved additional training for the entire police force on Aug. 6.
Other recommendations include using silhouette targets instead of photo-realistic ones in future civilian exercises. However, if photo-real law enforcements are selected to be used in the future, cultural sensitivity and respect for all participants in the class is essential, according to the report.
The report also recommends that VRPD continues to offer and promote educational programs and events that facilitate interaction and engagement between the department and community members.
Click here to read the full report.