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Police in Galveston, Texas, have apologized after officers on horseback led a handcuffed black man through the streets by a rope on Saturday.
“We understand the negative perception of this action and believe it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique,” the Galveston Police Department wrote in a Facebook post Monday night after a photo of the incident circulated on social media.
The man, 43-year-old Donald Neely, was arrested for criminal trespassing near a private property in Galveston, where he’d been warned several times. But instead of waiting for a transport vehicle to take him back to an area where other officers were stationed, two white patrol officers on horseback tied a rope to his handcuffs and made him walk behind their horses for about eight blocks.
Police said the two patrolmen — identified as Officer P. Brosch and Officer A. Smith — didn’t have any “malicious intent” and hadn’t tied his hands with rope as previously speculated. They only wanted to escort him back to where they were stationed after his arrest without dismounting their horses. It’s unclear whether they faced any disciplinary action.
Such transportation methods aren’t unusual for handling something like crowd control. But in Neely’s case, Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale said “our officers showed poor judgement” and should’ve waited for vehicle transport. He added it won’t happen again.
"First and foremost, I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment," Hale added in a statement to the Houston Chronicle.
Images of the arrest stoked outrage from civil rights leaders and politicians. Adrienne Bell, a Democrat running for a congressional seat in Texas’ 14th District wrote on Facebook that “swift action is needed to ensure that no one is demeaned in this manner again.”
And Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, a progressive civil rights group, told the Houston Chronicle he felt the officer should be disciplined.
"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," he told the paper. “And I do understand this — if it was a white man, I guarantee it wouldn't have happened."
Neely is currently out of jail on bond, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Cover image: Image from Adrienne Ball's Facebook.