Galveston, TX – The chief of the Galveston Police Department apologized to an outraged community for his officers on horseback walking a handcuffed man behind them with a rope but said that the officers were following department policy at the time (video below).
Pictures of 43-year-old Donald Neely, who had been arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing, being led by a blue rope down the middle of the street on Saturday quickly went viral, The Washington Post reported.
A video posted online later showed police removing something that looked like a bag from Neely’s head, but police said the item was the suspect’s welding mask.
Police said Neely was arrested after he showed up at an office building located at 306 22nd Street where he had been warned not to trespass on several prior occasions, The Washington Post reported.
There was no transport unit available after officers on horseback took Neely into custody, so they clipped a rope to his handcuffs and walked him to the Mounted Unit staging area that had been set up a few blocks away, the [Houston Chronicle](https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Galveston-police-apologize-for-photo-of-14282778.php?utm_campaign=CMS%20Sharing%20Tools%20(Premium%29&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral) reported.
Neely has since been released on bond.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale publicly apologized to Neely and said he thought his officers could have used better judgement in how they handled his arrest.
"First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment," Chief Hale said in a statement. “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."
An explanation posted to the Galveston Police Department’s official Facebook page better explained why the officers might have chosen to use those tactics.
The post explained that the technique of using mounted horses to transport a person during an arrest is considered a best practice during crowd control but was not ideal under normal circumstances.
Chief Hale said he had already suspended use of that technique while he worked to change his department’s policy.
“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,” the chief said. “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.”
An apology wasn’t enough for some civil rights activists. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called for a full review of the Galveston PD’s practices and policies, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"The photo of Galveston police officers leading an African American man down the street with a rope attached to his handcuffs is disturbing and offensive," ADL Interim Southwest Regional Director Gail Glasser said. "Although Police Chief Vernon Hale III has apologized, the department's actions have fallen short."
Black Lives Matter Houston called the police chief’s apology “weak” and vowed to protest the police department, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“This is 2019 and not 1819," Houston NAACP President James Douglas wrote in an email. "I am happy to know that Chief Vernon [Hale] issued an apology and indicated that the act showed poor judgement, but it also shows poor training. Even though the chief indicated that the technique would be discontinued he failed to address the lack of respect demonstrated by the officers in the episode."
The Washington Post reported that it was unclear whether the officers would face discipline for their actions despite the fact that the chief has made no mention of that and said the officers were working within current department policy.
The chief said the officers had their bodycams activated at the time of the incident.
Watch video of the incident below: