GALVESTON, TX — The police chief in Galveston, Texas, has apologized after a photo of two mounted officers escorting a handcuffed black man tied to a rope through the town’s streets sparked outrage and charges of racism.
The photo in question, which was published by KPRC and other media outlets, shows 43-year-old Donald Neely walking in between two mounted police officers. One of the cops is holding a blue rope tied behind Neely’s back. Police said that the rope was clipped to Neely’s handcuffs.
The officers were taking Neely to where the mounted patrol unit was staged.
“First and foremost, I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” Vernon L. Hale III, Galveston’s police chief, said in a statement.
“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.”
Neely was arrested over the weekend on a criminal trespass charge. According to information from police, Neely was being led a distance of less than a mile by the mounted officers.
The photo was widely condemned on social media.
“Horse-mounted policemen shamelessly parading a Black man handcuffed & hitched to their horse by rope down the streets of #Galveston is bad policy & bad policing,” Houston Congressman Al Green, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “Mr. President, is this what you meant on 7/28/2017 when you told police ‘don’t be too nice’ when arresting people?”
Adrienne Bell, a Democrat running for Congress in Texas’ 14th congressional district, thanked Hale for his swift apology and pledge to re-evaluate the practice. Bell said in a previous statement that the photo has invoked “anger disgust and questions,” from the community.
By Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on the issue. The ACLU noted that Galveston police referred to the blue rope as a line.
“They know the ugly history ‘rope’ evokes,” the organization said on Twitter.
Police said the two officers had their body cameras turned on. Police identified the cops as P. Brosch and A. Smith.
Galveston police learned of the photo going around on social media on Monday. In a statement, police said they were aware of the “negative perception” of the technique and are suspending its use during arrests.
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