BUFFALO, NY – A report on Friday by News 4 said the entire Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team has resigned from the team.
It’s a total of 57 police officers.
It was said that the move came as a show of support for the officers who were just suspended without pay after allegedly “shoving” 75-year-old Martin Gugino
All of the officers are still employed, but are no longer going to serve on the Emergency Response Team.
But was it really a move in solidarity, or was there more to the story?
#BREAKING: I’m told the entire @BPDAlerts Emergency Response Team has resigned from the team, a total of 57 officers, as a show of support for the officers who are suspended without pay after shoving Martin Gugino, 75. They are still employed, but no longer on ERT. @news4buffalo
— Dave Greber (@DaveGreber4) June 5, 2020
This all comes after two Buffalo officers were suspended after a protester tried to block them from clearing the viewing area in front of City Hall.
It happened during a curfew crackdown on Thursday, just after 8 p.m.
That’s when the city’s curfew went into effect over the violent protests surrounding the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, according to WBFO.
Police said that as they were working to clear Niagara Square directly in front of City Hall, 75-year-old Martin Gugino walked up to them and stood in front of the officers.
The video, which has since gone viral, shows Gugino walk directly into the crowd of approaching police and walk in front of them – stopping one, then repeatedly sticking out his right hand in front of another officer.
In the video, you can see as that officer reaches out and shoves Gugino with his hand while the first officer appeared to give him a push with baton.
Then Gugino stumbled backward, lost his balance and fell straight back onto the pavement and hitting his head.
The elderly man appeared unconscious as a pool of blood formed around his head.
The first officer goes to bend down and check on the man.
At that point, the officer behind him yanked the first officer back up by the vest and pushed him past.
In the video, it seems that the officers are ignoring the man – but there seemed to be a medic behind the police line.
That person was able to take care of the man once the line moved forward.
“No, I’m serious, he’s bleeding out of his ear,” somebody said on the video.
A nearby television crew told police “you better get an ambulance for him.”
They did, as is protocol, and according to WBFO, the man was rushed to Erie County Medical Center for treatment, where he’s reportedly in serious condition with a concussion and lacerations.
According to Newsweek, four others were arrested as officers cleared the area.
According to WBFO, the department released a statement Thursday night letting the press know:
“A fifth person was arrested during a skirmish with other protesters and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protesters, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”
Outraged viewers lead to the Buffalo Police Department releasing another statement.
In it, they said things are being reviewed by internal affairs and that Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood had suspended the two officers involved without pay.
Then came the Mayor’s office.
“Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.
“The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay.”
He went on to talk about about what comes next.
“After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight,” Brown said.
Of course New York Governor Andrew Cuomo weighed in.
“This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful,” Cuomo tweeted. “I’ve spoken with Buffalo @MayorByronBrown and we agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation. Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law.”
But now in a report by 7 Eyewitness News, the media outlet says that two officers of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team spoke out under the condition their names not be used.
The officers allegedly said the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association’s statement asserting all 57 officers resigned from ERT in a “show of support” wasn’t true.
“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,” said one officer to the reporter.
“We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting,” said another.
According to 7 Eyewitness News, a representative from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association said the officers resigned in “disgust” with how the two officers were treated.
“Some of them probably resigned because they support the officer,” said another officer to the media outlet. “But, for many of us, that’s not true.”
“The City, DA Flynn, they’re not representing those guys at all. They have to find their own lawyers, they have to come out of pocket.”
The media outlet wasn’t able to verify it with PBA president John Evans, but they did report on an email sent to PBA members by Evans.
In included this:
“In light of this, in order to maintain the sound financial structure of the PBA it will be my opinion the PBA NOT to pay for any ERT or SWAT members legal defense related to these protests going forward. This Admin in conjunction with DA John Flynn and or JP Kennedy could put a serious dent in the PBA’s funds.”
“You can’t ask people to do something and then when they do it and it goes bad then you just say they’re on their own,” an officer told 7 Eyewitness News.
To read more on how Buffalo and Erie County elected officials respond to the ERT resignations, click here.
In the meantime, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, Minneapolis City Council members are taking to social media to announce plans for shocking changes to the city’s police force- disbanding it entirely.
One of the most outspoken proponents of the effort is Councilman Jeremiah Ellison who wrote on Twitter Thursday “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response. It’s really past due.”
We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.
And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together.
We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.
It’s really past due. https://t.co/7WIxUL6W79
— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) June 4, 2020
According to The Patch’s Danny Wicentowski, Ellison’s father is Attorney General Keith Ellison, the prosecutor for former officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thang, and Alexander Kueng who are accused in the death of Floyd.
Ellison wasn’t the only council member to take to social media with forewarning of massive overhaul of the department. Alondro Cano, representing the city’s 9th ward simply wrote “The Mpls Police Department is not reformable. Change is coming. #Justice4George”
The Mpls Police Department is not reformable.
Change is coming.#Justice4George
— Alondra Cano (@AloCanoMN) June 3, 2020
Council member Steve Fletcher of the 3rd Ward responded that his approach was still exploratory, commenting:
“I don’t know yet, though several of us on the council are working on finding out, what it would take to disband the MPD and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity.”
I don’t know yet, though several of us on the council are working on finding out, what it would take to disband the MPD and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity.
— Steve Fletcher – Minneapolis Ward 3 (@MplsWard3) June 2, 2020
He further went on to write:
“Our city needs a public safety capacity that doesn’t fear our residents. That doesn’t need a gun at a community meeting. That considers itself part of our community. That doesn’t resort quickly to pepper spray when people are understandably angry. That doesn’t murder black men.”
Bob Kroll’s letter yesterday to the Minneapolis Police Federation membership showed us what rank-and-file officers voted for in their leadership, and it is yet another sign that the department is irredeemably beyond reform.
— Steve Fletcher – Minneapolis Ward 3 (@MplsWard3) June 2, 2020
However, Council President Lisa Bender was more firm in her commitment to dissolving the police force. She took to Twitter saying:
“Yes. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.”
Bender went further with a Tweet to Caucasian residents of the city saying
“If you are a comfortable white person asking to dismantle the police I invite you to reflect: are you willing to stick with it? Will you be calling in three months to ask about garage break-ins? Are you willing to dismantle white supremacy in all systems, including a new system?”
If you are a comfortable white person asking to dismantle the police I invite you to reflect: are you willing to stick with it? Will you be calling in three months to ask about garage break-ins? Are you willing to dismantle white supremacy in all systems, including a new system?
— Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) June 3, 2020
She further wrote “White ppl need to show up for this.”
Intervention by the city council in the operations of the Minneapolis Police Department is anything but new. In 2018, the council voted to reduce Mayor Jacob Frey’s 2019 police budget by $1.1 million.
The council vote passed on a 9-2 tally which nixed plans to put 8 additional officers on the force but instead redirected the funds to community driven public safety programs, City Pages Hannah Jones reported.
She further reported that a local organization called Reclaim the Block had pushed hard for the budget cut and had called for even more drastic reductions. The grassroots organization had been calling to redirect funding from the police department to community programs for years. Activist Kandace Montgomery was outspoken at the 2018 council meeting saying
“The Minneapolis Police Department has shown us how they do business. They’ve had 150 years to build trust with our communities, and they haven’t done it.”
The police union noted that the department’s budget was already stretched thin.
Community tensions ran high at the time of the vote. That same week, a photo of a Christmas tree in the Minneapolis 4th precinct was circulated on social media.
The tree was decorated with police tape, Takis chips, a cup from Popeye’s Lousiana Kitchen, a pack of Newport cigarettes and a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, the Star Tribune’s Andy Manniz reported.
Two officers were put on administrative leave after the discovery of the decorations promoting racial stereotypes in the predominantly black North Side section of the city. Council Member Phillipe Cunningham reported that he had spoken with then Fourth Precinct Inspector Aaron Baird who had referred to the tree decorations as “an officer’s prank.”
Cunningham commented on social media:
“They hurt EVERY gain made in improving community-police relations. On a personal level, despite being a [Council Member], I am still a Black man myself and these outrageous reminders only further my own feeling (of being) generally unsafe around police officers.”
Just a year and a half after the incident, few could have predicted the discussions that arose Thursday by council members on social media.
Total dismantling the police department and replacing it with community safety programs far exceeds the earlier calls for budget cuts from groups like Reclaim the Block. As all eyes are on Minneapolis, only time will tell if such a strategy proves to be effective.
They aren’t the only city considering drastic changes.
The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, levied a challenge toward the city on June 3rd to identify budgetary cuts in the realm of $250 million to be redirected in investing into communities of color, women and “people who have been left behind.”
Apparently, up to $150 million has already been identified and is being cut from the LAPD’s budget.
So less police will keep us safer? When we are in trouble, we're supposed to call a community leader? Los Angeles to slash up to $150M from LAPD budget, reinvest into communities of color https://t.co/Rc6oUQJK5D #FoxNews
— GC⭐⭐⭐ (@etf13) June 4, 2020
These redirected funds, according to Mayor Garcetti, are “so we can invest in jobs, in health, in education and in healing.”
While the notion of jobs, healthcare, and education are fairly easy to envision how funds can be used, the “healing” portion isn’t something clearly defined as to the “what” and “how” of that mentioned endeavor.
Eileen Decker, who serves as the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, noted that somewhere between $100 million to $150 million would be pulled directly from police department funding.
City Council President Nury Martinez had also brought up the idea of extracting funds for policing prior to Decker’s approval of the notion.
L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez introduced a motion today asking city staff to identify $100 million -$150 million in possible cuts in the LAPD budget to be reinvested into disadvantaged communities and communities of color.
— Emily Alpert Reyes (@AlpertReyes) June 3, 2020
The annual budget for the LAPD, as it currently stands, is $1.86 billion.
If the entire $150 million cited is extracted from the annual LAPD budget, that would bring down the monetary resources to $1.71 billion.
It is unclear whether this would be a one-time extraction or an ongoing amendment to the budget moving forward annually.
Melina Abdullah, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles outfit, reportedly feels as though the budget cuts mentioned are not enough.
BLM-LA cofounder Melina Abdullah says L.A. needs to go further with pulling money from the LAPD to fund other services, saying council and mayor "need to know that we’re fighting for truly transformative change here and won’t be bought off with just this minimal amount of money.”
— Emily Alpert Reyes (@AlpertReyes) June 4, 2020
What also isn’t clear is what these budget cuts will be aimed at exactly within the department.
There are numerous ways that these budget cuts to policing could be enabled.
A few possible ways would be a reduction in force at various precincts, altering the cadence of equipment maintenance for the likes of cruisers, dialing back pay increases, eliminating overtime opportunities, or avoiding equipment purchases that were planned for the year.
Essentially, some forms of budgetary cuts can be more detrimental than others for a department – but any form of reduced financing is hardly ever desirable for those tasked with directing funds.
If the budget must be cut, which it seems it does, the LAPD will have to determine a manner in which the police force’s ability to serve the community isn’t terribly hindered. That task is one that any police department would not envy.
Hopefully, the LAPD can adhere to the requested slashing of the budget in a manner that creates the least amount to tangible harm to the department’s mission.
These cuts requested clearly stem from the protests and riots that sparked in California, which started on May 27th, following the death of George Floyd.
Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s report from May 27th when we first got word of the demonstrations reaching California.
LOS ANGELES, CA – Reports are coming in of more than 1,000 protestors descending on downtown Los Angeles as the protests over George Floyd spread from Minneapolis to California.
Protests have reached Los Angeles. This is downtown right now.
It’s all happening.
— Justin L. Hunte ?????? (@TheCompanyMan) May 28, 2020
Highways were shut down by protesters before things turned violent.
— Leon Matron (@theaquakid) May 28, 2020
Law Enforcement Today has learned from multiple sources that a Black Lives Matter protester was severely injured after being thrown from the hood of a police cruiser in downtown during the demonstration.
WATCH: Protest march in downtown Los Angeles turns violent. One protester was injured after climbing on a CHP cruiser. A person broke the rear window and the officer drove off. (Video courtesy of ABC 7)
— KESQ News Channel 3 (@KESQ) May 28, 2020
Wednesday afternoon, the first break-off protest popped up and quickly turned violent.
https://t.co/V5HmSzJwY6 riots and protests in Los Angeles. Nation wide protests erupting now live. America in turbulent times.
— Real News Network. Global Breaking News 24/7. (@RealNews3362) May 28, 2020
Shocking aerial footage captured several protesters as they surrounded and smashed out the back windows of the California Highway Patrol cruiser before one man climbed on top of the hood.
— John Titor (@JohnTitor33621) May 28, 2020
We’re told the police officer tried to take off in self defense, and that the man rode on the hood for several seconds before he was sent tumbling off the car into the road.
When backup arrived, the windows of that cruiser were also smashed and it was seen fleeing the scene.
— Mehrdad Torabi (@mehrdadt1987) May 28, 2020
EMT’s rushed out to attend to the man, who was pictured lying motionless on the ground momentarily before being taken away in an ambulance.
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