Since the Donald Neely arrest, oceans of ink have been expended dissecting the optics of the incident. Almost nothing has been mentioned about using the optics of any event as the nearly sole standard for judging the legality, or even the compassion shown, in such incidents.

Using the standard of “how things look” rather than “what things are,” is a dangerous detour that substitutes emotion for the rule of law, policy and procedure, and will not yield the long-term improvement of social cohesion that it claims to offer.

The facts, as so far publicly available, are simple: Donald Neely, a multiple repeat criminal trespass offender with a long history of mental illness, was put into custody and removed in a manner that apparently was the extent policy and training standard for the department the officers serve in.

There hasn’t been one shred of evidence offered that this method was used exclusively on minorities, that the officers said or did anything that could be construed as racial in tone, and in fact were more permissive to Neely in accommodating him than you or I could expect in a similar arrest, unless you think you have a right to wear a welders mask during an apprehension.

The direct testimony of Neely himself reinforces the narrative that the officers went out of their way to treat him with respect.

Police officers don’t have the luxury of changing training guidelines, policy and procedure on the fly. These policies are defined to minimize the danger to the officers, the suspect and the public. While settled law leaves much latitude to officers, it’s asking for trouble if they go too far afield from a textbook response in how they respond.

All this has been lost on those who base an emotional reaction on how the image in a cropped photograph cause them to feel about the event. In this case, the Galveston Police Department mounted police policy was in the process of being finalized, but the officers’ actions were consonant with what was, at that point, the training standard.

Policy, being set down so an officer may be judged and held to account, is concrete. Feelings about any image are subjective and provide a fully mobile goalpost to roam the field at the discretion of the viewer. Using optics as the standard of conduct invites solutions that are cosmetic rather than substantive. If policies need to change, make the case while keeping in mind more than one dimension of the problem.

The good news is that America doesn’t have to wait for solutions to be generated from above. Each of us simply has to personally vow to live in such a way that every human being is respected, others’ beliefs are allowed, justice is demanded regardless of status or position, and other ways of living are tolerated, even if we don’t agree with them. Without this understanding actively practiced in our lives, we will not find the social equality we so fervently seek.

Wayne D. Holt lives in Galveston.


(19) comments

Emile Pope

The arrest technique was only to be used in situations involving crowds so enough of the “standard operating procedure” comments. And the fact that you personally don’t have a problem with what was done doesn’t make it right. And exactly when was the last time you personally stood up against injustice or even spoken out against it? Have you ever seen any?

Gary Scoggin

I think the point was that there was no “injustice”. Unless you consider it injustice that two good cops were unnecessarily vilified over this incident.

Emile Pope

I would consider that decision valid if it wasn't decided by individuals without a clear bias in the case.

Gary Scoggin

Like the Texas Rangers? Or is no law enforcement agency above reproach here?

Carlos Ponce

Gary if you have any proof of recent misdeeds of the Texas Rangers please elaborate. If you have to go back more than 50 years.....[rolleyes]

Gary Scoggin

No. Just the opposite. My intent was to imply that they are a straight up bunch and tht that their investigation was likely a very appropriate one.

Don Schlessinger


Carlos Ponce

"stood up against injustice" - I get the feeling Emile is encouraging a "March on Galveston" so he can shout "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!" There are those from outside Galveston and Galveston County who encourage such a march. Problem is that whenever groups chant "No justice, no peace" justice IS being carried out. The officers actions are being investigated by the Galveston Police and Galveston County Sheriff's Office. Attorneys have asked for the bodycam videos in their lawsuits.The Texas Rangers have already concluded there was no criminal actions taken by the officers- but that's not good enough for the rabble rousers. They see a "line" and refer to it as a a noose. A necktie is closer to a "noose" than what was attached to Donald Neely. Calling it a "noose" is more than just hyperbole. It reeks of instigating. They see this as a racial matter ignoring the fact that the same procedures were used on white men.

Go ahead, Emile, shout your "No justice, no peace!" It's become an overused and abused cliche. Just noise without substance.

Wayne Holt

The fact that I don't have a problem with it doesn't make it right, correct. The fact that no evidence has been presented to that end does make it right. That was the point of the piece.

Please also see my past public comments on this board regarding those who celebrate the arrest of an African-American petty criminal while ignoring people who look like me who are stealing billions and are never brought to justice.

I am an equal opportunity observer. I don't think people should get a pass on any crime if they have white skin and are rich. I also don't think they should be accused without the normal standard of evidence being offered. I hope that clears up your misunderstanding.

Emile Pope

If the conclusion is that the actions weren’t right, weren’t just, but followed rules that they themselves wrote and were writing at the time, then I disagree. Especially since the decision was made by persons directly linked to law enforcement and concerning law enforcement employees. And exactly what is the “normal standard of evidence”?

Emile Pope

Perhaps you could cite the comments you refer to...

Wayne Holt

Emile, in response I would say that any public safety organization these days operates under a microscope. The suggestion that GPD could or would promulgate deliberately racist guidelines is not credible, and I think you would agree with that. The fact that the mounted police, in fact, had policies in place that were not cognizant of public perceptions clearly is true, and we only have to see the quick, and effective, response by Chief Hale to correct it as evidence that was the case.

By evidence, I mean 1) what relevant statutes say on a subject; 2) what policy says on a subject; 3) what is demonstrably the words or actions of those being accused; 4) what the "reasonable person" standard would accept as likely evidence of racial animus. Lacking these, there would, by definition, be no evidence.

BTW I would like to add that your response was both reasonable and civil, and I am more than happy to engage when we are able to do so in that manner. I hope we can continue to work positively on this rather than talking past each other. Thanks for your input.

Emile Pope

"The suggestion that GPD could or would promulgate deliberately racist guidelines is not credible". No one ever said that. It's called a straw man argument where someone disproves something that was never stated and considers it a legitimate response. Furthermore, the belief that something isn't racist unless the person doing it clearly states that it is or puts it in writing is just laughable unless you think that other trials should be conducted in that fashion.

Carlos Ponce

" the belief that something isn't racist unless the person doing it clearly states that it is or puts it in writing is just laughable"

Emile, in a civil trial the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. Unless evidence of racism is produced whether verbal, written or recorded there is no case to be made for racism. What they do have is a statement from Donald Neely's sister claiming her brother said the police "were nice".

Emile Pope

More rubbish...just like your talking about how great the stock market is doing...

Carlos Ponce

Emile, it's not "rubbish". Burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. That's a FACT. But your ignorance of judicial proceedings is not surprising.

"In civil law cases, the burden of proof requires a plaintiff to convince a judge or jury of the plaintiff’s entitlement to the relief sought. This means that the plaintiff must prove each element of the claim, or cause of action, in order to recover. Burden of proof is the most important rule of evidence in the trial of civil cases. Generally, burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show by a 'preponderance of evidence' or 'weight of evidence' that all the facts necessary to win a judgment are probably true."

As for the Stock Market, the Dow Jones lost points - but that happens. Traders did not take the news of tariffs kindly and the Fed did not reduce rates as President Trump wanted. But it is still up +9.87% since the beginning of the year. Don't worry, your investments will do fine (if you have any). One day's stock market drop or rise does not indicate a trend.

Emile Pope

The belief that that someone is innocent of an offense as long as they deny it and didn't put it in writing is as illogical as it is ridiculous. And if the only evidence considered is a confession then it is simply a farce.

Carlos Ponce

Seems like Emile has a problem with American jurisprudence. The concept of "innocent unless proven guilty" is well established. No proof = no case. But keep it up, Emile. If ever on a jury panel you will definitely NOT be selected with that attitude and all will be better off without you on a jury.

Wayne Holt

Not to keep flogging this point but the distinction is important: With no evidence, there IS no offense that you speak of. Evidence is the proof of the offense. Without it, there is no offense, it is a nullity.

It is not necessary for someone to admit to wrongdoing to prove it; as a matter of fact, most people convicted of a crime at least initially deny they have done it.

What is important is that a previously established standard of behavior has been breached and there is some generally accepted record of the breach to prove it. That is what constitutes evidence in this circumstance, which is the verifiable record of a crime. I don't know how to say it in any simpler way.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.