Horseback Police Lead Roped Suspect Through Galveston, Texas

Police Chief Vernon Hale has apologized.

mounted police on horseback
Elvert Barnes / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Cropped, resized.)

Police Chief Vernon Hale has apologized.

Horseback-mounted police in Galveston, Texas tied a rope to a trespassing suspect and led him through town, leading to an apology from the city’s police chief.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, on Monday, Galveston’s Police Chief Vernon Hale apologized after a photo surfaced showing two of his officers, mounted on horseback, having tied a rope to an African American man, Donald Neely, 43, and leading him through town as they rode in front.

Neely had reportedly been warned multiple times against trespassing at an unspecified Galveston property, but two officers, identified only as P. Brosch and A. Smith, allegedly caught him there anyway. The two officers needed to bring him to a facility about eight blocks away, but rather than calling for a transport unit, they tied a rope to him and led him to the destination.

Hale says that such an arrest is a trained technique and “best practice in some scenarios,” according to Houston’s KHOU-TV. However, in this instance, he says, officers showed “poor judgment” and could have waited for a transport unit instead. Further, he said that the Galveston Police will be reviewing their policies for mounted police, and that this method of arrest will not be employed again.

As for the officers involved, Neely says they had no “malicious intent.”

He also apologized to the suspect.

“I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” he said.

James Douglas, president of the Houston chapter of the NAACP, said that the image of a black man being led through town with a rope by two white men is a bad image to present.

“This is 2019 and not 1819,” he said. And though Hale issued an apology and vowed to discontinue the practice, Douglas says that the chief “failed to address the lack of respect demonstrate[d] by the officers in the episode.”

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Similarly, Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, commended Hale for vowing to discontinue the practice. However, he thinks the officers involved should have been disciplined.

“With the climate in the country today, I would hate to see, six months or three years down the road, what kind of judgment these same officers would make in a worse scenario,” he said.

And, like Douglas, Phillips has an issue with the idea of a black man being led through town on a rope.

“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 [sic] doesn’t make sense, period,” he said.