Two Galveston, Texas mounted patrol officers were caught on camera leading a handcuffed black man by a rope tied to his hands. The photo spurred outrage across social media and the Galveston Police Department has been forced to respond—and apologize.
The arrest happened on Saturday, according to police, and, because a transportation unit was not available at the time, the two officers on horseback apparently had no other choice but to escort Donald Neely, 43, who was on foot.
It is unclear whether or not the officers considered trying something unconventional—like waiting—with Neely.
Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, remarked:
“Stay there with him instead of humiliating him. And now you’ve humiliated the whole city of Galveston because everybody who sees it is going to have an opinion.”
Phillips added that the shocking photo was reminiscent of racist images from the 1920s.
In a statement made by police on Monday, the act of transporting an arrestee in this way was referred to as a “technique” that is “considered a best practice in certain scenarios” but “was not used correctly” on Saturday. The statement confirmed that a “line” was “clipped” to Neely’s handcuffs.
The department claims to understand the resulting outrage of the officers’ action and believes use of the technique should end.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale, III said:
“Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest. My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest, but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods.”
Chief Hale also apologized to Neely, who had been arrested on a criminal trespassing charge:
“First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment. Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest.”
“All I know is that these are two white police officers on horseback with a black man walking him down the street with a rope tied to the handcuffs, and that’s doesn’t make sense, period. And I do understand this—if it was a white man, I guarantee it wouldn’t have happened.”