UPDATE: Texas Officers In Viral Horseback Photo Were Allegedly Following Policy
Officers P. Brosch and A. Smith arrested Donald Neely, a 43-year-old Black man, for alleged trespassing in Galveston, Texas. The officers then handcuffed Neely, tied a blue rope to his handcuffs, and used the rope as a leash as they forced him to be dog walked in his own neighborhood to the staging area for the Mounted Patrol Unit. Witnesses took photos of the incident and released them to the public, prompting an outcry over the dehumanization of the man.
The two officers involved in the incident will not face a criminal investigation, according to Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset.
“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,” Police Chief Vernon Hale said in a statement.
According to CNN, the officers were following policy when it came to arresting by horseback officers. While a criminal investigation is not happening, there is an investigation being conducted on the county level. The investigation, however, is not into the incident, but rather an investigation in the police forces’ policies.
The visceral effect of the image is rooted in the use of this “technique” to capture and enslave Black people in the antebellum south.
In a Facebook post, Texas’ Galveston Police Department included this statement:
“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. 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.”
Neely’s family attorney, Melissa Morris, says that Neely is mentally ill and homeless.
Morris told KPRC that Neely lived a normal life as the father of eight children until he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder ten years ago. His family had been looking for him for the last three or four years. When Neely’s sister saw his image go viral, she immediately drove to Galveston to find him.
The Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale III has since released a statement, saying “First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment.” Hale has confirmed that this is a commonplace technique that “is considered a best practice in certain scenarios, such as during crowd control, the practice was not the correct use for this instance.” The police department has discontinued the use of the “technique.”
“The family is offended. The family is upset,” Morris told KPRC.
“I believe the way they handled him was disgusting,” Morris told the Texas station. “No puedo con esta mierda. Me mudo. Me vomito,” comments one Twitter user.
The police officers have received no consequences for their “poor judgment” at the time of this publication.
In 2014, Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill Black man, was shot 14 times by police, though he was unarmed. Some people are calling on the police department to “fire them!” Another Twitter user feels the apology is “Not enough. Officers Brosch and Smith should be ID’d in full and then fired. If the #Galveston Police department treat a Black man like this for a misdemeanor, who knows what savage acts they would commit for a felony.”
Meanwhile, people are showing the treatment of the El Paso shooter who killed 22 people in comparison to a Black man arrested for trespassing.
President of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, Leon Phillips, told the Houston Chronicle, “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.”
For some, the photo is further proof of the injustices Black men and women face when dealing with law enforcement.
“Tell me again how racism is dead and that we Black folk just overreact to everything? Don’t worry I’ll wait,” tweets @luvwinsresist. Unfortunately, she didn’t have to wait long.
Nearly half the social media outrage to the photo comes from folks who claim the law is color blind.
They seem to be angry that anyone could suggest that race played a role in the way Neely was treated. Photos of other non-Black suspects under arrest by cops on horseback are being circulated. None of the photos we scoured found the use of a rope to function as a leash.
People of color are expending their energy on explaining racism to white folks all over the Internet this week.
After one Twitter user asked if anyone would care if they were Black cops dragging a Black man, Monica Charley chimed in to say, “Yes. I would care. I would care very much. The difference here is that the incident harkens to an earlier era during slavery when this actual act was commonplace for captured slaves. That is the reason for the extreme upset. I hope this clarifies things for you.”
The user responded using “they” language, and once again erasing the anger of Black folks as oversensitive.
Take care of yourselves out there, mi gente.
This week has been pesado in ways we couldn’t even imagine. Take care not to give away precious joules of energy to people who aren’t worthy. Our community has your back.