A photo of two white Galveston, Texas mounted police officers leading a handcuffed Black man on a rope has prompted the city’s police chief to issue an apology.
The photo an anonymous witness took and shared Aug. 3 has gone viral, sparking outrage for hearkening back to images of slavery and segregation.
The police identified the Black man in the photo as Donald Neely, who was arrested on a charge of criminal trespassing. In the photo, the officers appear to be parading Neely through the streets on a leash.
Twitter users compared the image to those of slave catchers capturing escaped slaves in the mid-1800s.
— singing the body electric (@TheWayWithAnoa) August 5, 2019
The police department issued a press release explaining the details of the incident, saying the officers were familiar with Neely and had warned him against trespassing several times before. Though some people on the internet pointed out that it looked like Neely’s hands had been tied with the rope, the release confirmed the officers used handcuffs and clipped the rope to them. Neely’s sister told ABC13 that her brother is homeless and struggles with mental illness.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale, III offered a public apology to Neely for the “unnecessary embarrassment.” He continued on to say the technique is something mounted officers are trained on,
mainly for situations of crowd control. However, he added, in this situation, the officers could have easily waited for a car to transport Neely. He also said he does not believe his officers had malicious intentions, and that the department has immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of the technique for mounted officers.
“We … will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods,” Hale said in the statement, posted on the department’s Facebook page.
The Police Department identified the officers as P. Brosch and A. Smith. The department said their body cameras were on at the time of the arrest.
In an interview with the New York Times, Leon Phillips, the president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, said the two officers should lose their jobs.
“If it was a white man, he wouldn’t have been treated that way,” Phillips said. “I guarantee there’s nothing in their rules that you can put a leash on a guy while you ride down the street on a horse.”
The officers, as of now, are not facing disciplinary action.