A Texas police chief apologized for two white officers on horseback leading a mentally ill black suspect on Saturday, a photo of which went viral and caused public outrage.
What We Know:
- An image of the arrest of Donald Neely went viral Saturday; The black man was handcuffed and being led by a rope by two white police officers on horseback, which officers claim is within department policy for crowd control enacted because there was no available alternative transportation for Neely. Neely was arrested for criminal trespass
- The Galveston Police Department published a statement about the incident on Monday, detailing the encounter with comments from Chief Vernon L. Hale, III. “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,” Hale said.
- Public frustration with the photo pointed out that the photo symbolically harks back to images of slavery in the United States, which Hale has acknowledged and expressed “embarrassment” for, explaining his officers did not have “any malicious intent at the time of arrest.”
- President of the Galveston Coalition for Justice Leon Phillips is calling for the two officers to be fired, emphasizing how raw and emotional the photos of the arrest are for African-Americans. “Every black person that’s over the age of 30 years old will have a thought of what it used to be like,” Phillip said.
- The controversy was further complicated yesterday when Neely’s family revealed he has long suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and regularly sleeps on the streets, which is information officers would have had access to in his criminal history. Neely has lived in the streets for five years due to his mental illness and has been arrested six times in 2019 on misdemeanor criminal charges, information which police had access to and could have used to treat Neely with more compassion and respect.
- Though it has not been indicated whether the officers involved will face disciplinary action, Hale said the technique implemented in the arrest will be changed immediately.
Residents have voiced their frustration on social media and a community meeting Tuesday organized by Galveston Police; Hale is accepting responsibility for the officers’ “poor judgment.”