Every member of the Buffalo Police Departments Emergency Response Team, tasked with responding to riots and other peace keeping situations, resigned Friday. Ever.single.member.
According to The Buffalo News, the law enforcement officers have not resigned from the police force, only the special tactical unit responsible for crowd control.
The mass resignation comes after two officers were suspended without pay after video captured a 75-year-old man being pushed to the crowd after he confronted officers attempting to clear an area. The man approached officers and appeared to swat at one, who then pushed him out of the way. After the two officers were suspended, the union notified “rank and file members Friday that the union would no longer pay for legal fees to defend police officers related to the protests which began Saturday in downtown Buffalo and have continued on and off, according to one source.”
The notification upset the union, ultimately promptly the mass resignation.
More from The Buffalo News:
The union representing Buffalo police officers told its rank and file members Friday that the union would no longer pay for legal fees to defend police officers related to the protests which began Saturday in downtown Buffalo and have continued on and off, according to one source. The union is upset with the treatment of the two officers who were suspended Thursday.
“Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square,” said Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans. “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.”
A video posted by WBFO late Thursday night showed the officers pushing the man before he fell backward and hit his head on the sidewalk. He was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where he was in stable but serious condition early Friday morning.
It was not clear how the Buffalo Police Department will deal with the manpower issue. State police, Erie County Sheriff’s Office, as well as other local law enforcement agencies have been helping with the response to protests and unrest.
“I don’t know what the city is going to do,” Evans said. “They have not called me.”
Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement: “The City of Buffalo is aware of developments related to the work assignments of certain members of the Buffalo police force. At this time, we can confirm that contingency plans are in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety within our community. The Buffalo police continue to actively work with the New York State Police and other cooperating agencies.”
Evans said: “We stand behind those officers 100%.”
The PBA will pay for any defense costs for the two officers, Evans said, but not for any members of the Emergency Response Team or SWAT in regards to the protesting.
Evans said the two officers, whose names have circulated widely social media, have been harassed.
The actions of the officers drew swift condemnation from people across the nation, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“It’s just fundamentally offensive and frightening,” Cuomo said Friday morning.
Watch the video here. WARNING: Graphic content.