BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The entire force of the Buffalo Police Emergency Response Team has resigned as of Friday afternoon in support of the two officers who were suspended without pay following an incident in Niagara Square on Thursday.
The 57 officers have not resigned from the department and will keep their jobs. They have only resigned from their roles on the emergency response team.
The Niagra Square incident involved a 75-year-old man, Martin Gugino, being shoved by officers. He fell to the ground and was transported to Erie County Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition.
A Buffalo PBA representative tells WKBW anchor Hannah Buehler "these officers were simply following orders given by DPC Joe Gramaglia to clear the Square."
THREAD: I am told it is the ENTIRE Emergency Reaponse team. The Union tells me it fully understands their “disgust” “These officers were simply following orders given by DPC Joe Gramaglia to clear the Square” @wkbw
— Hannah Buehler (@HannahBuehler) June 5, 2020
Two of the officers who resigned later said that they didn’t step away from their roles as a “show of support.” Instead they say they resigned because they don’t feel they have legal protection from the city. One of the officers said it's likely many did resign as a show of support, but for many others, "that's not true."
WKBW obtained a copy of the email sent by Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans, indicating the PBA would no longer pay for the legal defense of members of the ERT or SWAT teams in relation to the protests.
The decision of the officers to resign was announced a few hours after this email was sent. The email also references "mistreatment of PO Corey Krug." Krug was charged with deprivation of constitutional rights and found not guilty last year, in connection to a 2014 incident caught on camera by a WKBW photojournalist.
It is unclear how the department intends to fill the role of this team in future protests, but Mayor Byron Brown did say in a statement that plans were in place:
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.
In response to the resignations, a New York State Police spokesperson said in a statement, "the New York State Police is aware that Buffalo Police Emergency Response Team has resigned. The New York State Police will be adding additional Troopers in the region."
In addition to the suspensions, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn's office is also investigating the incident.
This story was originally published by Megan Erbacher at WKBW.