A white Texas police officer could be heard twice on a body camera video saying that leading a homeless black man by a rope down city streets while he and his partner were on horseback would look “bad”, according to the footage released on Wednesday.
Two Galveston police officers arrested 43-year-old Donald Neely on August 3, accusing him of criminal trespass. Galveston is about 80km (50 miles) southeast of Houston.
Images shared online of the two white officers leading Neely using a rope tied to his handcuffs – reminiscent of pictures showing slaves in chains – sparked outrage in the United States. This led to a Texas Rangers investigation and a Galveston County Sheriff’s Office review. Protesters last month demanded that the officers’ body camera footage be released.
On Wednesday, officials in Galveston released two videos – one from each body camera worn by Officers Patrick Brosch and Amanda Smith.
In the footage from Brosch, he could be heard asking Smith whether she should go get their truck so they would not have to make Neely walk. Smith said their sergeant would not approve of the officers separating.
Brosch could then be heard saying, “This is gonna look really bad.”
Then, just before the officers started leading Neely away, Brosch can again he heard saying, “This is gonna look so bad.”
A lawyer for Neely did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
In the videos, the two officers can be heard asking Neely, who had prior arrests for criminal trespass, why he keeps sleeping in buildings.
At one point in the videos, Neely, who was wearing a welding mask that he had asked Brosch to place on his head, apparently had trouble seeing because of the mask.
The mask was one of several personal belongings that Neely had asked to bring with him.
“We’re walking. Let’s go. Stand next to me because I’m going to drag you if not. You have to stand next to me,” Smith told Neely after Brosch took off the welding mask.
As they continued on horseback, Brosch asked Smith if she wanted to go on a street with less traffic.
“Yeah, I want the less eyesight,” Smith said.
On the videos, cars could be seen driving by the two officers and Neely and people could be seen walking on the sidewalks. At one point, a group of people asked the officers for directions.
The two officers led Neely for several blocks until they reached a car park where their truck and horse trailer were located.
In Brosch’s video, Neely could be seen standing in the car park for more than 10 minutes until a third officer arrived and loaded him into a vehicle.
Galveston police chief Vernon Hale, who is black, said after the arrest that the officers on horseback are trained to use such techniques in crowd control situations but the officers displayed “poor judgment in this instance”. He apologised and said the department has since changed its policy.
On its Facebook page Wednesday, the Galveston Police Department said it had received the sheriff’s office report on the arrest. Hale will use the report to determine if any further action will be taken against the two officers, according to the Police Department.
“I am studying the report now and will use its findings to make decisions in the near future about the next steps for the department,” Hale said on the department’s Facebook page.
Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell said officials will support Hale “in any actions he deems to be appropriate”.
It was not immediately known if the report will be made public. A police department spokesman did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment.
The Texas Rangers determined that the officers did not break the law.