A Texas police chief apologized Monday night after a photo surfaced of two white officers on horseback leading a handcuffed black man by a rope down a street in Galveston, according to a department statement posted on Facebook.
The photo, captured by a bystander, evoked the violent and racist policing of the slavery and Jim Crow eras. The man being led between the two mounted officers was identified as Donald Neely, 43, who had been arrested for criminal trespassing.
“First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” police Chief Vernon Hale said. “Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance.”
As seen in a photo taken from behind the three men, the rope, held by one officer, was connected to Neely’s handcuffs, which held his hands behind his back.
“It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers,” Texas congressional candidate Adrienne Bell said. “It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust, and questions from the community.”
The Galveston Police Department said that when the officers arrested Neely, there were no police cars around for them to transport him, and so the two handcuffed Neely and led him down two blocks to where their unit “was staging from.”
In the statement, the department announced it had changed its policy to avoid a repeat of the situation. The statement said the method the officers used—though the rope wasn’t mentioned—to escort Neely was more appropriate for crowd control situations and that it had been misapplied with Neely’s arrest. The officers should have waited for a police car, the statement said. “My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest,” Hale said, “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.” The statement did not say if they were considering disciplining the two officers.
According to the Associated Press, Neely has been freed on bond.