Galveston Police Quickly Address Racial Crisis
Police in Galveston, Texas, faced a nasty crisis this week. They handled the response fairly well, showing the importance of actually doing something to confront a crisis. In this case, that included quickly organizing a community meeting and announcing a change in policy.
The crisis came when a disturbing photo appeared of two white members of the Galveston Police Department transporting an African-American man who had been arrested for criminal trespass. The officers, mounted on horses, walked the man, Donald Neely, between them as he was tethered with what appears in the pic to be a rope. The arrest was made Saturday, Aug. 3.
For many observers, the picture raised ugly reminders of slavery and of fugitive slaves being hauled back into captivity.
The police chief has taken immediate action to suspend this technique of transportation during arrests.
–Galveston Police Department
The department responded Monday night by posting a statement on its Facebook page. It explained that other transportation was unavailable at the time and that the “technique” used “is considered a best practice in certain scenarios, such as during crowd control,” but it “was not the correct use for this instance.”
The statement said the police understood the negative perception of the action. “The police chief has taken immediate action to suspend this technique of transportation during arrests,” it said.
It offered a quote from the police chief himself, Vernon L. Hale, III. “I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest,” he said. “My officers did not have any malicious intent.”
The Facebook post pointed to a related press release, which included more details on the suspect and, confusingly, repeated the quote from Hale but tacked on an apology to Neely for the “unnecessary embarrassment.” Neely’s family has since said he is homeless and mentally ill, which they said police should have known.
The police helped their case by quickly apologizing, admitting the incident was a mistake, and ending use of the technique.
In addition, Hale organized a community meeting about the incident on Tuesday, during which Galveston residents (including Neely’s family) reportedly expressed their concern about the officers’ conduct. Hale said to blame him, not the officers. He said an investigation is ongoing.
Photo Credit: via Facebook
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