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During a Tuesday night public meeting Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale said the two officers "understand the hurt" they have caused, but were doing their jobs.
The Galveston, Texas police department is holding a public hearing this evening to get public feedback regarding the two white, horse-mounted officers who arrested and roped Donald Neely, 43 and Black, in order to take him to the nearest police station.
During the Tuesday night public meeting, Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale, told those present that the two officers who carried out the controversial transport of arrest “understand the hurt (they have caused), but they were doing the job they were trained to do, … but we have to fix this.”
The two officers, whose names were published in a police department press statement on Facebook Monday as A. Smith and P. Brosch. Hale said they are still on the force during the public meeting live streamed over the department’s Facebook page.
“This is just the beginning of this problem. … The officers’ inhumanity toward this man is a problem that hasn’t been addressed yet,” said one Galveston resident at the Tuesday night hearing held at a local school. Hale responded that this type of behavior does not “permeate” the department, and that it’s his responsibility to fix such problems on the force.
Neely, who was arrested Monday for “criminal trespassing,” is reportedly homeless and mentally disabled.
Images of Smith and Brosch have gone viral over the Internet as the two horse-mounted officers led Neely, handcuffed and walking, by a blue rope attached to his cuffs, down the street between the two policemen.
Galveston police has said that this transportation practice, which Chief Hale said at the conference was taught in certain parts of the United States, would end. “We understand the negative perception of this action and believe it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique,” Hale said in the Monday statement.
The police chief apologized for the way Mr. Neely was treated during the arrest in the communique: “First and foremost I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment.”
Neely’s sister-in-law, Christin Neely, strongly criticized the department over Facebook saying Donald was “treated like an animal.” She added that he is homeless and mentally ill. “Now imagine scrolling FB and seeing said loved one being escorted to jail on foot by two officers on horses, hands cuffed behind his back with a rope attached. In 2019?” said Christin over social media.
Neely stressed that she and her family have tried to take in Donald, “to no avail.” She said, “Imagine that YOU are aware that living on the streets is dangerous, unsanitary, makes you a target for crime/law enforcement and isolates you from your family but YOU CAN'T make that relative understand that despite your many efforts.”
Hale said the pair of officers “did not have any malicious intent at the time of arrest” in the department’s statement published on Facebook.
At the Tuesday hearing, the chief said he was in charge of the investigation of the incident and that the two officers would remain on the force until the investigation was complete. Some members of the public pushed back saying Smith and Bosch should be “laid off” during the investigation against them.
Civil rights groups equated the event of two white officers leading Neely, Black, down the street by rope with the historical, and continual, mistreatment of Black people.
“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.”
Galveston mayor, James Yarbrough, was not present at the public meeting.