The Galveston Police Department was forced to apologize on Monday evening after a disturbing photo began circulating online of two white officers on horses leading a Black man with a rope.
Police arrested 43-year-old Donald Neely for criminal trespassing on Saturday and needed to transfer him to another location. The two mounted officers, identified only as P. Brosch and A. Smith, tied a rope to his handcuffs and led him through the streets.
Texas residents were incensed by the disturbing photo, which many said harkened back to slavery and Jim Crow.
“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,” Bell wrote on Facebook. “It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust, and questions from the community.”
In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice Leon Phillips said the photo was not only damaging to Black Texans but harmed the city’s reputation nationally.
“Stay there with him instead of humiliating him. And now you’ve humiliated the whole city of Galveston because everybody who sees it is going to have an opinion,” he said.
“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. And I do understand this — if it was a white man, I guarantee it wouldn’t have happened.”
In a statement released on Monday evening, the police department tried to defend the two officers by saying no transportation units were “immediately available at the time of the arrest” and that they were only “escorting” Neely.
“We understand the negative perception of this action and believe it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique. The Police Chief has taken immediate action to suspend this technique of transportation during arrests,” the department said on Facebook.
“While this technique of using mounted horses to transport a person during an arrest is considered a best practice in certain scenarios, such as during crowd control, the practice was not used correctly in this instance.”
Police Chief Vernon Hale released his own statement apologizing to the community but made no mention of whether the officers would be punished for the photo.