The show of solidarity from 57 police officers in Buffalo – who reportedly resigned their assignments in a show of solidarity when two of their colleagues were suspended for allegedly brutalising a 75-year-old protester – may have been a fabrication by the department’s police union.
A pair of Buffalo police officers, speaking on condition of anonymity over fears of retaliation, told 7 Eyewitness News that the claims from their union – the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association – were untrue.
On 5 June, local news reported that 57 officers were resigning their assignments in solidarity with two colleagues who were punished for shoving an elderly man to the ground during the George Floyd protests. When the man hit the ground, his head split open, and he began to bleed out onto the pavement. The police began marching over his incapacitated body.
One of the officers attempted to stop to check on the man, but another one stopped him and forced him to keep marching. A protester attempted to reach the injured man, but the police stopped him.
Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were suspended following the incident, and have since been charged with felony assault.
While the officers did resign their assignments, they claimed the act was not one of solidarity, but rather of self concern.
“I don’t understand why the union said it’s a thing of solidarity. I think it sends the wrong message that ‘we’re backing our own’ and that’s not the case,” one of the officers said.
According to the officers, the resignations occurred because the officers were no longer confident the city would protect them.
“We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore,” another officer said. “So why should we stand on a line for the city with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting.”
The officers conceded that some of those who resigned may have done so to support their suspended colleagues, but by and large, their actions were not a show of solidarity.
The officers provided 7 Eyewitness News with an email the officers received from union president John Evans explaining its position following the suspension of Mr Torgalski and Mr McCabe.
“I know it has been said that the Admin won’t back you when something happens. After witnessing first hand how these 2 officers were treated, I can tell you, they tried to f*** over these guys like I have never seen in my 54 years,” Mr Evans reportedly wrote.
He said the treatment that the officers received from the city and the district attorney’s office was “despicable”.
In the email, Mr Evans says the union will not pay for the legal defence for officers on ERT or SWAT assignments out of fear that mounting legal fees would cripple the union’s funds.
“This Admin in conjunction with DA John Flynn and or JP Kennedy could put a serious dent in the PBA’s funds,” Mr Evans wrote. “OVER BULLS****! These officers did nothing wrong but execute an order from the DPC to clear the Square.”
Mr Evans said Mr Torgalski and Mr McCabe don’t deserve to be “vilified and treated like criminals for simply following orders”.
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