Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. With a few exceptions, that seems to be the maxim governing the initial social media outcry and resulting media coverage of the recent incident involving Galveston mounted police officers and the arrest of a local homeless man.
As we waded through the misinformation being spread, we learned that this same method of arrest has been used on all ethnicities, including two white males who were arrested on a West End beach by a black police officer.
In fact, we learned that this method is the only method taught to mounted police officers nationwide. It provides for the safety of the horse, the officers, the public and the suspects themselves.
We found out that the officers initially called for a patrol car to transport the suspect, but being a busy weekend day on the island, one wasn’t available. With temperatures soaring into the high 90s, the officers decided that, rather than wait with the suspect in the hot sun, it would be better to move to their staging location where there was shade, cold water and air conditioning.
When reports came out that officers forced the man to wear a hood, we then learned that he was homeless and mentally ill, and that it made him feel comfortable to wear a welding mask that he carried with him. As it turned out, one of the officers had a prior rapport with the suspect and allowed him to wear the helmet so that he would feel more at ease.
It later came to light that when located for interview, Donald Neely himself described the officers as very nice and stated that they treated him well.
When faced with these facts, we are told, “but it looked bad.” My response has been to ask, when has being arrested ever been a good look for anyone?
As a result of this controversy, these officers have been subjected to threats from all over world, labeled as racists, white supremacists and slandered by elected officials to include our own mayor who was so appalled and embarrassed that he found himself unable to attend the community meeting hosted by Chief Vernon Hale to discuss the issue.
It’s past time to start letting facts guide our decisions and cease kowtowing to outrage mobs. These police officers deserve an apology from us.