Things That Matter

Update: Bodycam Footage Of Texas Police Officers Leading A Black Man By A Rope Reveals They Knew It Would ‘Look Bad’

Two Gavelston, Texas police officers arrested 43-year-old Donald Neely on criminal trespassing 50 miles south-east of Houston. The officers are both white, while Neely is black, thus, a photograph of the two officers on horseback escorting Neely whose hands were tied with a rope, sparked public outrage. Civil Rights advocacy groups felt the picture echoed imagery from the Jim Crow era or Antebellum south. 

While the Gavelston police were quick to apologize and change their policies, protestors demanded the officers’ release their bodycam footage of the incident, which took place last August. 

Officers arrest Donald Neely on horseback.

In the absence of a police vehicle, two white officers led Neely by rope as they rode on horseback through the streets of Gavelston. Reports describe Neely as homeless and mentally ill after he was arrested for trespassing. When a photo of the incident began to circulate online, there was a national outcry with many believing it was needlessly degrading. 

The police department admitted the officers demonstrated “poor judgment” and would not arrest someone using this method again. 

Galveston’s police chief, Vernon Hale apologized calling the rope an, “unnecessary embarrassment.”

“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,” Hale said. “We understand the negative perception of this action and believe it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique.”

Donald Neely’s family reacts on Facebook. 

Imagine that you have a relative who is homeless and mentally ill… Imagine that YOU are aware that living on the…

Posted by Christin Neely on Monday, August 5, 2019

Donald Neely’s sister Christin Neely took to Facebook after the photos when viral. She shared her family’s story. Donald is mentally ill and became transient because of it. His family is still remarkably supportive and regularly searches for him when he goes missing. Fully aware that his unfortunate circumstances make him a target of law enforcement, it was no less traumatizing to discover how her brother had been arrested by seeing the viral photos.

“Imagine that you have a relative who is homeless and mentally ill… Imagine searching the streets of a city for days looking for your loved one, to no avail,” Christin wrote. “Just imagine for one second being one of his children who have been fatherless for years and your father isn’t incarcerated or dead. With all of that in mind, now imagine scrolling fb and seeing said loved one being escorted to jail on foot by 2 officers on horses, hands cuffed behind his back with a rope attached. In 2019???? He was treated like an animal paraded through the streets.”

After Christin’s post and viral outrage ensued, Hale issued an apology to Donald

“First and foremost I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment. 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 arrest,” Hale said. 

Civil Rights groups and protestors demand more action. 

Civil Rights advocacy groups were not completely satisfied with the way the arrest was handled, even if they did appreciate the police’s quick apology. However, no disciplinary action was taken with the two officers. 

“If it was a white man, he wouldn’t have been treated that way,” Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, told the New York Times. “I guarantee there’s nothing in their rules that you can put a leash on a guy while you ride down the street on a horse.”

Phillips said that he grew up during segregation and the image made him emotional because during that time “people said and did whatever they wanted to,” to black folk. For Phillips, this incident was all too similar to many he had witnessed before. 

“This is 2019 and not 1819,” James Douglas, the president of Houston’s NAACP, told the Houston Chronicle. “I am happy to know that Chief Vernon [Hale] issued an apology and indicated that the act showed poor judgment, 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.”

Protestors get Gavelston police to release bodycam footage.

Protestors and advocates successfully got the Gavelston police to release bodycam footage of the incident. The two officers, Amanda Smith and Patrick Brosch each made their footage public. 

In the video, Brosch asks Smith if she should go get her truck, but Smith feared their sergeant did not want the officers to separate. 

“This is gonna look really bad,” Brosch says laughing, as they start escorting Donald Neely with the rope. “This is gonna look so bad. I’m glad you’re not embarrassed, Mr. Neely.” 

Police Chief Hale says that the report and footage will be used to determine if further action must be taken.

New Yorkers Plan A Rally To Support The Woman Arrested For Selling Churros On The NYC Subway

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New Yorkers Plan A Rally To Support The Woman Arrested For Selling Churros On The NYC Subway

LightRocket

A woman selling churros on the subway, a sight as common as breakdancers, panhandlers, and school children selling candy in New York City’s central public transportation system, was arrested. The incident spurred further public outcry amidst allegations of over-policing on the trains. 

For years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which oversees public transportation in New York, has come under fire as New York City’s subway system has increasingly begun to decay with more trains out of service, delays, mechanical failures, and trains that run slower than they did in the 1950s due to mismanagement and poor maintenance.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s solution was to hire 500 more subway police officers to combat fare evasion. Following the crackdown, widespread protests have occurred in response to at least two incidents where many felt officers used excessive force to thwart subway evasion and other petty crimes.

Police captured on video bringing churro vendor to tears.

In New York City it is not uncommon to see people selling helpful items or snacks on subway platforms, which is why the treatment of one churro vendor has sparked outcry on social media. Sofia Newman filmed and shared the video on Twitter. In it, the woman is crying as officers handcuff her and take away her churro cart.

Newman doesn’t remain a bystander, she shouts at the cops for harassing the woman. 

“It’s illegal to sell food inside the subway stations,” the officer told her. 

According to Newman, the woman kept trying to speak to one of the officer’s in Spanish, but a plainclothes officer kept interrupting. 

“She kept trying to speak to one of the cops in Spanish, but the plainclothes cop kept rolling his eyes and saying things like, ‘Are you done?’ and ‘I know you can speak English’ Eventually, they cuffed her and unceremoniously dragged her and her cart away,” Newman said

The police officers eventually take the handcuffs off of the woman and let her go, only issuing her a summons.

“No matter what the law says, there is no reason why that many officers needed to encircle, demean, and police the poverty of that woman of color,” Newman wrote on Twitter.

According to the NYPD, the woman has been issued 10 summonses for unlicensed vending, however many felt her treatment was excessive for a nonviolent crime. 

New York Comptroller and advocates criticize over-policing.

“Another incident that raises serious questions about the increased police presence in our subways,” New York City Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer tweeted. “This kind of enforcement doesn’t make anyone safer.”

Governor Cuomo seems to have little support for increase in police form as the New York Times notes. Police Commissioner James O’Neil (who resigned a week ago) said overall crime is down and the subway is safe, despite Cuomo’s assertions otherwise. 

AOC has also voiced her opinions on community justice and the subway system.

Transit advocates say the cost is too high and as the MTA’s financial crisis looms, service cuts and major layoffs are being considered. The 20 percent increase in officers would cost taxpayers $663 million over a decade. Some wonder if that money would be better spent bailing out the MTA and repairing the poorly functioning subway.

According to the New York Times, “Transit groups have urged Mr. Cuomo to cancel the plans for new officers, who would work for the transit agency rather than the city’s police department, as the current force does. The governor, they say, should instead focus resources on modernizing the subway, which still relies on signal equipment that was introduced before World War II.”

Protests spawn following allegations of subway police using excessive force.

Others felt that adding more police to the subway would lead to more policing of people of color and criminalizing of the poor who must pay $6.50 to commute to work every day in a city with a $15 minimum wage and where the average one-bedroom apartment cost $2964 to rent per month.

Those fears appeared to be a self-fulfilling prophecy when a video of a cop tackling a 19-year-old unarmed teen, Adrian Napier, for evading a $2.75 surfaced. A few days later another officer was caught punching two teenagers in the face, one of which is suing

“There is no excuse for the excessive use of force and hyperaggressive policing we saw in these two incidents,” Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, said at a news conference at City Hall.

To protest the subway police, 1,000 demonstrators marched through the subway and “hopped” the turnstiles, evading the fares together in solidarity. 

“We needed to react quickly because what we’re seeing is this additional 500 cops that Cuomo has authorized are waging a war on poor people of color,” Amin Husain, an organizer with Decolonize This Place, told Gothamist

“If the city isn’t going to listen to the people, then the people are going to assert their legitimacy. I don’t think anyone disagrees: there should be less cops and better service for the MTA.”

A Substitute Teacher In Texas Had Sex With Her Student In Her Parents’ Home

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A Substitute Teacher In Texas Had Sex With Her Student In Her Parents’ Home

Pasadena Texas Police Department

Olivia Huerta, 23, was arraigned Thursday on second-degree felony charges of an improper relationship with a student and sexual assault of a child between the ages of 14 and 16. She’s being held on a bond of $40,000.

The assault happened sometime between January and April of 2018 when Huerta was substituting for a social science teacher at Pasadena Independent School District’s Sam Rayburn High School. A year later, the then 16-year-old victim told his friend what happened, and the friend told school administrators, who called the police, according to the report by KPRC.

The unnamed victim told police that the two were talking via Snapchat.

Credit: Pasadena Texas Police Department

Police reports show that the student alleged that the two had exchanged phone numbers. They texted and had conversations through Snapchat. Later, when police were questioning Huerta, they say she confessed to the crime. She also voluntarily gave her phone to police to show the text conversations between the two. Police say the conversations allude to the inappropriate relationship.

The student couldn’t remember the teacher’s name and described her to police as a short, curvy Latina. After showing him several photos of Latina substitute teachers employed by the school district at the time of the incident, he identified Huerta. She was arrested after admitting to the relationship.

They had sex at Huerta’s parents’ house.

Credit: @rate1_city / Instagram

The victim told police that Huerta and he walked from school to her parents’ house, where they had sex. It was a one-night-stand that left the student a victim of sexual assault and pedophilia.

When the allegation came to light, the school district immediately removed Huerta from campus.

Credit: marinecorpsrecruiter / Instagram

In a statement made to KPRC2, school district officials made it clear that anyone accused of sexual assault is not welcome on school campuses. “Upon receiving the allegation, the administration at Sam Rayburn High School immediately notified district administration and the Pasadena ISD Police Department. The accused individual was promptly removed from campus and is no longer employed by Pasadena ISD.”

The story and its implications are being lost on some people who are reading about it.

Credit: Frank Huerta / Facebook

In a Facebook comment under the story, AJ Hernandez asked (edited for grammar), “So my question: Why don’t they blast the student as well? After all, didn’t the student go along with it? I blame the kid as much as well.” Many people in the comments seem to think that Huerta “looks like a child as well,” and that the age difference isn’t “so bad.” One Laura Montaño agreed with Hernandez, commenting, “They just act like the victims so they won’t be held accountable for their actions! How is it that teenagers are able to go to jail for murder but are victims when it comes to sex???? Makes no sense! Yeah, adults should know better but she looks like a child to me as well!”

Someone named Maestro Salchicha responded defending the child from the online fury saying, “Because kids are kids and ultimately victims of these adults who know better.”

The legal age of consent in Texas is 17 years old.

Credit: zenerdydrummer / Instagram

The legal age of consent across the United States varies from 16 years old to 18 years old. There are also “close in age” laws, that allow for a minor to consent to sex with an adult who is closer in age. In Texas, the age of consent is 17 years old, and the close-in-age law provides an age exemption if the person is no more than 3 years older than the minor.

In case you missed it, consent isn’t always consent if the person says “yes.”

Credit: Iris Rodriguez / Facebook

In certain power dynamics, consent isn’t always able to be given freely. Employers sleeping with their employees are frowned upon because of the financial pressure for the subordinate to ‘consent.’ Other forces besides a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are at play. The individuals must be weighted equals in the power dynamic.

In 2003, Representative Helen Giddings (D), introduced a bill that bans sex between students and teachers within the same school district. This all means that Huerta’s victim was not legally able to give his consent, given his age, and a victim of the student-teacher ban.

If you have any information about the case, you can call the Pasadena ISD Police Department at 713-740-0200.

Credit: chrisgonzo21 / Instagram

Men are flooding the comments with, “Where these teachers when I was a teenager attending class?” One woman mocked the onslaught of jokes with a comment, “Derp “wEaR wErr dEEz TeeCheRs WiN eYe WuZ N sKoOl” Someone else commented, “All the men in these comments disgust me.” A child was raped by a teacher in Pasadena, Texas last year. That’s never okay.

READ: One San Francisco Man Used The New Snapchat Filters To Nag A Police Officer For Attempting To Sleep With A Minor