All 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team have resigned from their posts in the special unit.
The mass resignation is meant as a show of support for two fellow officers who were suspended without pay Thursday night after video of them shoving 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino went viral.
“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told WGRZ.
A copy of an email that Evans sent members on Friday morning suggests that the resignations may also have been driven by concerns over the officers’ legal defense fund. Evans warned that due to financial considerations, the union may not cover legal costs for Emergency Response Team members that arise because of the ongoing protests.
He also strongly affirmed his belief that the officers’ suspension was “BULLSHIT.”
“These officers did nothing wrong but execute an order from the [Deputy Police Commissioner] to clear the Square,” the email reads. “They do not deserve to be vilified and treated like criminals for simply following orders.”
Buffalo created the Emergency Response Team in 2016 for the express purpose of having a group of officers trained to keep the peace amid civil disorder.
Footage captured by local media on Thursday shows Gugino, a white man, walking up to officers in Buffalo’s Niagara Square as they begin to enforce the city’s 8 p.m. curfew.
Two cops aggressively push Gugino, causing him to fall backward onto the pavement where his head hits with an audible thud. The officers stop to look while Gugino lies motionless and bleeding until a third officer steps in and directs them to keep walking.
The encounter hospitalized Gugino, who was in serious but stable condition on Friday morning.