A photograph of two mounted police officers escorting a handcuffed black man down a street with what appears to be a rope has sparked a social media uproar.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale III issued a formal apology Monday night, saying his officers showed "poor judgment" in transporting a trespassing suspect.
The image was taken by a bystander and shared on the internet. A backlash quickly followed, especially among black people who said the photo evoked the history of slavery, racism and violence directed at black people in America.
Adrienne Bell, who is running for a Texas congressional seat, said the photo had created "anger, disgust and questions from the community."
Galveston police identified the man as Donald Neeley, 43, who had been arrested on a charge of criminal trespassing. In a press release, the department said Neeley was handcuffed and "a line was clipped" to him as he was escorted to "a Mounted Patrol Unit staging unit" because "a transportation unit" was not immediately available.
"First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neeley for this unnecessary embarrassment," the chief wrote on the department's Facebook page. "Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance."
But social media users conveyed disgust and anger toward the image, calling it dehumanizing and sickening.
The department identified the two officers as P. Brosch and A. Smith, but did not say if they faced disciplinary action.
An attorney for the Neely family said the man is homeless and is bipolar, KPRC reported. His relatives had not seen him in several years until his image appeared on social media. His sister has gone to Galveston to find him, the lawyer said.
Hale said, "my officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest, but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique."