The police chief of Galveston, Texas apologized on Monday night after a photo emerged of two white officers on horseback leading a black suspect in handcuffs down the street with a rope tied to him.
A bystander took the photo and shared it on social media, where it has gone viral and sparked outrage toward the Galveston Police Department, especially among African American people.
“First and foremost, I must apologize to Mr. Neeely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” Vernon L. Hale III, the city’s police chief, said in a statement posted on the department’s Facebook page on Monday night. “Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest.” The Police Department identified the two officers as P. Brosch and A. Smith and said that the officers’ body cameras were activated at the time of the incident.
According to the chief’s statement, it it sti undetermined what type of disciplinary action has been enforced. The officers could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday.
On Tuesday, relatives of the victim came forward saying that the man is mentally ill and regularly sleeps on the streets, which is knowledge the police force were already aware of.
“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,” Chief Hale Said. “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.” In an interview on Monday night, Leon Phillips, the president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, called for the two officers to be fired. “If it was was a white man, he wouldn’t have been treated that way,” Mr. Phillips said. “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.” Mr. Phillips said the person who took the photo and a second image wanted to remain anonymous.
He said the imagery was raw for many 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, said Mr. Phillips. “Younger people, they have a tendency to not get emotional about something like this. I get emotional because I cam from a segregated time, and people said and did whatever they wanted to.”