Galveston officials release body cam footage of controversial horseback arrest

GALVESTON, Texas — The city of Galveston released body cam footage Wednesday following a controversial incident that prompted a formal apology from the local police chief and stirred conversation on social media almost two months ago.

The backlash was spurred from a viral photo of Donald Neely, 43, who was arrested on Aug. 3 by two officers with the Galveston Police Department mounted patrol division. He was accused of criminal trespassing.

In the picture, Neely is being led by rope tied to his handcuffs as the officers ride horseback. The city of Galveston promised to release the body camera videos worn by Officer Brosch and Officer Smith to the public immediately after receiving an administrative report from the sheriff’s department.

The police department has since said that Neely was handcuffed and a line was clipped to the handcuffs. Police Chief Vernon Hale said at the time of the Neely’s arrest, a transportation unit wasn’t immediately available and transporting a person using mounted horses is considered the best practice in some scenarios, this was not one of them.

The videos are reportedly being released in their entirety; however, there is no audio during the first two minutes of the body camera videos as a result of the configuration of the body camera equipment. Once an officer activates the camera, the previous two minutes are captured on video. The camera is not constantly recording and storing audio due to storage limitations, city officials said.

The videos show the officers making the decision to transport Neely themselves. After attaching a rope to the suspect’s handcuffs, the officers are seen leading Neely through a street as they make their way to the police station.

The Galveston County Sheriff’s Department conducted an investigation of the incident, and the report will be given to the police chief for a decision on whether any further action is needed in accordance to police department policy.

“I commit to you that we will do better,” Hale said. “We will do better on the front end of any policy we create. We will do better as our policies evolve and we find a better way to do things. We will do better as an administration in ensuring that we have the proper tools, equipment, policies and controls in place for us to police this island in the image we want to be seen in.”

Hale held a community meeting days after the incident, during which the chief gave a public apology and agreed the officers showed poor judgment. He also promised to do better before taking questions from the audience.

“Galveston voters elected to have civil service rules for their public safety officers,” City Manager Brian Maxwell said. “Due to Civil Service rules, any discipline would be at the sole discretion of Chief Hale. The city supports the chief in any actions he deems to be appropriate; however, if the investigation identifies deficiencies in department policies or practices those will be addressed directly with the chief.”

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