Texas Police on Horses Parade Suspect Down Street Tied to Rope: 'You Don't "Round up" Human Beings With a Leash Like Animals'

A Texas police department is facing backlash after a photo was posted online showing horse-mounted officers parading a suspect through the streets on a rope.

Donald Neely, 43, was detained for criminal trespassing at 306 22nd Street last Saturday and a line was clipped to a pair of handcuffs he was restrained with, police said. According to officers, he was being led to 21st and Market, where the mounted patrol unit was stationed.

An image showing the detention sparked outrage, with many commenters noting that it would only contribute to a lack of trust in law enforcement.

The criticism led to an apology being issued yesterday by Galveston police chief Vernon Hale, who described use of rope as a "trained technique and best practice in some scenarios."

"First and foremost I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment," Hale said. "I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest. My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest, but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent use of this technique and will review all mounted training and its procedures for more appropriate methods."

Officials said the technique is often used during crowd control but had not been used correctly in the man's arrest. "We understand the negative perception of this action," it was noted.

The Texas police department denied online speculation that the line had been tethered to the suspect's hands, saying it was in fact clipped to the set of cuffs. Officials said Neely was "aware that he had been warned against trespassing upon this specific location several times."

Neely is bipolar and homeless, KPRC-TV reported, citing a family attorney.

Texas Democrat Adrienne Bell shared the image of the arrest to social media yesterday, noting her team had verified the authenticity of the picture. "It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash," Bell lamented on Facebook. In a later statement, she said that a town hall would be convened to hear concerns from local residents.

Multiple photos from the scene were uploaded to Facebook by user Erin Toberman on Monday. The post attracted hundreds of shares and fueled debate. "There is absolutely no excuse for what happened to this man. Not even by their own law enforcement policies," Toberman wrote.

The president of local campaigning group, Galveston Coalition for Justice, Leon Phillips, told the Houston Chronicle newspaper that the images had strong racist connotations.

"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, that doesn't make sense, period," Phillips said. "And I do understand this—if it was a white man—I guarantee it wouldn't have happened."

After Toberman shared the images to Twitter, outrage quickly spread. New York City Public Defender Rebecca J. Kavanagh wrote: "[Officers] led him through the streets…on mounted horses. All as though they were slave masters, and he was their slave.

"Police have discretion. It wasn't just an appalling decision to parade a human being through the streets in this way, rather than waiting for other transportation. But maybe they could have not made an arrest here in the first place," Kavanagh added, in a post that has since been shared thousands of times.

Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police, said in a tweet: "I don't care what he's accused of, Galveston PD, you don't 'round up' human beings with a leash like animals."