A Texas police department changed its policy Monday after pictures surfaced showing two white officers on horses leading a black man in handcuffs by a rope.
Adrienne Bell, a Democrat who is running for Congress in 2020, tweeted the pictures showing one of the mounted Galveston police officers holding a rope attached to handcuffs clasped behind the man’s back.
“It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers,” Bell said in a statement. “It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust and questions from the community.”
According to the Galveston Police Department, the officers, identified as P. Brosch and A. Smith, arrested Donald Neely, 43, for criminal trespass on Saturday.
“A transportation unit was not immediately available at the time of the arrest,” said a statement from the department. So Neely “was handcuffed and a line was clipped to the handcuffs,” and the officer clutched the other end of the line, leading Neely.
The officers were “familiar” with Neely, and he had been warned about trespassing, the statement said. He was led on the rope about two blocks to “where the Mounted Patrol Unit was staging from.”
The method of handcuffing someone and escorting them between two mounted officers is usually used in volatile situations, like crowd control.
“The practice was not used correctly in this instance,” the police statement said.
“I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest,” said Galveston Police Department Chief Vernon L. Hale. “I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment.”
“My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest,” Hale said. “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.”
Bell said she applauded Hale’s “swift action” in discontinuing the practice.
But she added that “questions about transparency, community policing in the community, and accountability still remain. There are also concerns about arrest procedures for persons who are known by the police department, as having mental issues.”
Bell said she would soon invite law enforcement leaders to a town hall meeting so they could face the concerns of community members.