Over 50 officers of the Buffalo police department's special unit, who are trained to manage mass protests and riots, resigned on Friday. As many as 57 officers of the department's Emergency Response Team (ERT) resigned a day after two officers were suspended without pay, after they were caught on camera shoving an elderly man who was seen bleeding profusely.
The officers "resigned in disgust" over the treatment of their colleagues "who were simply executing orders", John Evans, President of the Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement. The Buffalo police commissioner Byron Lockwood said in a statement that although several members had resigned from the "voluntary assignment with the ERT", they hadn't quit the police force.
To deal with the mass protests in Buffalo, additional troopers have been called in, WGRZ reported. In a statement, the Buffalo city Mayor Byron Brown said contingency plans were in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety in the community.
On Thursday, an elderly man identified as social justice activist Martin Gugino was pushed on the ground by Buffalo police officers after he approached them and was seen saying something. He fell backwards, hit his head and was seen bleeding heavily. A police officer was seen leaning towards him saying something as another pulled him away. The officers swiftly walked away as Gugino lay motionless on the ground.
A video of the incident went viral on social media evoking widespread outrage at a time when the US is roiled by protests over racism and acts of police brutality. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Friday, that the incident "disturbs our basic sense of decency and humanity". He questioned the necessity of the officer's response. "Where was the threat?" He also questioned the officers walking away as the man Gugino bled from his head.
Gugino was admitted to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo and was unable to give a statement to investigators on Thursday. Although seriously injured, he is reported to be in a stable condition.