Every member of the Buffalo Police Department's Emergency Response Team — 57 officers in total — have resigned from the special unit in protest of suspensions assigned to two officers seen pushing a 75-year-old man down in a now-viral video, Spectrum News reported.
The officers are still employed by the department, but will no longer serve on the ERT.
Two Buffalo police officers were suspended Thursday after video showed them shoving an elderly man who was standing in their path. The man stumbled backward, hit his head on the ground, and began bleeding from his head.
Two Buffalo police officers shove a man to the ground in front of City Hall (WARNING: GRAPHIC) youtu.be
BPD's initial statement on the matter referenced the incident by saying "one man was injured when he tripped and fell," even as video showing that he was pushed down spread quickly online. As backlash grew, the officers were suspended Thursday evening.
Viewers of the video were appalled by the shove, and also by the disregard shown by the officers to the man who was clearly seriously injured. The man, identified by Spectrum News as activist Martin Gugino, was hospitalized with serious injuries, but is reportedly now active and alert.
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Patrolman's Benevolent Association, said the officers resigned from the response team because they were disgusted with the city administration's handling of the matter.
"Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square," Evans said, according to the Buffalo News. "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."
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issued a statement Friday afternoon.
"The city of Buffalo is aware of developments related to the work assignments of certain members of the Buffalo police force," he said. "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%."