By Wayne D. Holt, Galveston Resident
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.
Editors Note: I have highlighted in bold type the second paragraph of this opinion piece from the Galveston County Daily News. It really dissects what is happening to our country. Life altering decisions are being made based on emotions generated from a snippet of video. Thank you Mr. Holt for your opinion.