All 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s voluntary Emergency Response Team have submitted their resignations and stepped down from the team, Breitbart reported.
The mass resignation comes one day after a shocking video emerged from the protests in Buffalo, New York on Thursday that showed two officers in riot gear push an elderly protester backward, causing him to fall and hit his head hard on the concrete.
The video, which went viral on social media and garnered international attention, captured the moment when the elderly protester approached a line of advancing officers in riot gear who had begun to clear Niagra Square ahead of the city’s curfew. As the man was holding up the progress of the advancing line, it appears he was shoved by at least two officers. He took several unsteady steps backward before falling and hitting his head on the ground.
The two officers involved, both members of the Emergency Response Team, were immediately suspended without pay and were charged with second-degree assault on Saturday.
According to The Buffalo News, the rest of the 57-member team resigned from the specially trained squad the very next day. They remain employed by the department. The exact reason why and who would step up to fill their place when dealing with mass protests remained unclear.
According to certain officials, including John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, the resignations were a show of solidarity with the two officers who are suspended without pay and are at risk of being fired and even facing criminal charges.
“Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square,” Evans said. “It doesn’t specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don’t know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards.”
Evans added that the union stood “behind those officers 100%” and would cover the cost of any potential legal defense. That contradicts another report that the union had informed the rank-and-file members that it would no longer cover incurred legal expenses related to the protests, however.
Officers protest lack of support
Further muddying the waters on the reason behind the mass resignation was an exclusive report from local ABC affiliate WKBW that revealed the resignations, at least for some members, had nothing to do with standing in solidarity with the suspended officers and was actually in protest of the lack of support officers perceived from both the union as well as city and state authorities, who they fear will throw the book at them over any potential misstep.
“We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting” the suspended officers, one anonymous member said.
Another officer said, “You can’t ask people to do something and then when they do it and it goes bad then you just say they’re on their own.”
Unfortunately, this disturbing development probably isn’t isolated to just Buffalo. If local officials, not to mention police unions, continue to leave law enforcement officers out on a limb, we can likely expect to see even more officers resign.