BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two of the 57 officers who resigned from a volunteer assignment team on Friday said they did not resign from their roles on the team as a "show of support" for officers who have been suspended for pushing a 75-year protester. Instead, they say they resigned because they don't feel they have legal protection from the city of Buffalo.
On Friday, all 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department's Emergency Response Team resigned after two of its members, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, were suspended without pay after bystander video showed officers shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground during a peaceful protest.McCabe and Torgalski have since been charged with second-degree assault.
The 57 officers who resigned only left their roles on the Emergency Response Team and are still with the department.
Following the mass resignation, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association (PBA) released a statement asserting it was a "show of support" with the McCabe and Torgalski. But two of those who resigned — who were granted anonymity for this story — say that's not the case.
"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.
"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 a second officer.
One officer said that it's likely that many did resign as a show of support, but for many others, "that's not true."
"The city, (Erie County District Attorney John Flynn), they're not representing those guys at all. They have to find their own lawyers; they have to come out of pocket."
PBA president John Evans was not immediately available for comment, but in an email to PBA members provided to Scripps station WKBW, Evans said that the union would not provide legal defense to officers in any charges linked to the ongoing unrest.
"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," Evans' email read. "This Admin in conjunction with DA John Flynn and or JP Kennedy could put a serious dent in the PBA's funds."
Officers say they're hesitant to put themselves in the line of duty during protests without proper legal backing.
"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," one officer said.
To read more on how Buffalo and Erie County elected officials responded to the ERT resignations, click here .
This story was originally published by Madison Carter on WKBW in Buffalo