White Officers Who Led Black Man on Rope Won’t Face Criminal Charges

August, 2019
United States of America

Two white police officers who led a black man by a rope down a street in Galveston, Tex., this month will not face criminal charges, the authorities said on Sunday, resolving one of two outside inquiries into the officers’ conduct.

The Galveston Police Department had asked the Texas Ranger Division of the state’s Department of Public Safety to review whether the officers committed any crimes.

“The Texas Rangers conducted an inquiry into this matter, which has since been completed,” the public safety agency said in astatement. “The Rangers subsequently conferred with the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, which determined that there was nothing that warranted a criminal investigation.”

Donald Neely, 43, who relatives say is mentally ill and has often slept on the streets, was arrested Aug. 3 on a criminal trespassing charge. When a police vehicle was not immediately available, mounted officers escorted him by rope to a nearby staging area, the police said.

The scene was captured in a photograph by an onlooker and shared widely on social media, drawing national outrage as it evoked images of slavery and the long history of racism and violence by whites against black people.

In addition to the state investigation, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office was also asked to review whether the officers had violated any Police Department policies. A man who answered the phone at the sheriff’s office on Sunday evening said no one was available to answer questions about the investigation.

Two days after Mr. Neely’s arrest, Vernon L. Hale III, Galveston’s police chief, apologized for what he called the officers’ “poor judgment,” saying they could have waited for a vehicle to become available. But he also defended the officers, saying they were simply using a technique they had been trained to use.

Geoff Gainer, the president of the Galveston Municipal Police Association, said in a statement that officers “are expected to choose the least bad option and follow best practice and department guidelines, and these officers did exactly that.”

“Our officers were faced with a difficult choice, as they are every day they do their jobs,” he added. “Their job is to promote public safety and enforce our laws. They did this to the best of their ability, followed all training and protocols they had been provided and maintained their professionalism throughout.”

Chief Hale has said the department will stop using rope escorts. The method had been “considered a best practice in certain scenarios, such as during crowd control,” the department said in a statement after Mr. Neely’s arrest.

“Regardless of the Texas Rangers’ findings, the community behind Mr. Donald Neely are demanding transparency and accountability,” Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Mr. Neely’s family, said in a statement on Friday. “The only way to rebuild trust after this instance of bad policing is to be transparent and send a clear message that Mr. Neely was deserving of respect, just as any other American citizen.”

Kevin Petroff, Galveston County’s first assistant criminal district attorney, said his office was trying to work out an agreement so that Mr. Neely would receive mental health treatment instead of a criminal conviction.

Source: The New York Times