On Friday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Situation Room,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D) stated that the inaccurate initial statement issued by the police over an incident where they shoved and injured a man was due to a “volatile situation” and “an attempt to report out quickly to the media and to the community,” and that the city is “not focusing” on any consequences for the 57 officers who resigned from their unit in solidarity with the officers who were suspended over the incident.
Host Wolf Blitzer asked, “As you’ve said, the police officers involved in this very disturbing incident were suspended without pay, but now, 57 other police officers have resigned from their emergency response unit in solidarity with those two suspended officers. So, what message, mayor, does that send to everyone in Buffalo, my hometown, calling for police accountability?”
Brown responded, “Our message, Wolf, is that the city of Buffalo and its residents will be protected, our businesses will be protected, and we will protect the right of people to peacefully protest in the city of Buffalo. Our Buffalo Police Department has contingency plans. They have been working with other law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level. I’m very thankful to the support that has been provided to us from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). We have a large contingent of state police in the city of Buffalo who are embedded with the Buffalo Police Department.”
Blitzer asked, “Are those 57 police officers who resigned from that unit going to face any consequences for this?”
Brown responded, “We are concerned that we focus on the safety of our community. We’re not focusing on that action right now. We’re focusing on delivering public safety services. There are many officers on the Buffalo Police Department that are on the job, that have been working around the clock, that have been working with very little sleep, that have been working to exhaustion, certainly, thank them for the work that they’re doing. The vast majority of our officers are working hard to protect and serve the community to ensure the safety of our residents, the safety of our businesses, and the ability for people to exercise their freedom of speech rights in the city of Buffalo.”
Brown also stated that his “concern is for” the injured man.
He continued, “That was a specialized unit, the emergency response team, that is taught to move in that kind of foundation. As part of that team, there are medics embedded with the team, people who are trained to provide health first aid. Those medics immediately provided assistance to Mr. Gugino and helped safely get him into an ambulance and transported to Erie County Medical Center. So, assistance was rendered. The officers in the front formation are not supposed to provide assistance. Because there are medics a little further back that are prepared and trained to deliver first aid.”
Blitzer then asked, “As you know, mayor, the police originally issued a statement saying that the man simply tripped and fell. What does that say about how police might act when there’s no video to capture their actions? Because we all saw that awful, awful video, the original police statement was simply not true.”
Brown answered, “It was an error. Fast-moving, very volatile situation, information coming into a police command center from the field. The initial information was wrong, in an attempt to report out quickly to the media and to the community, that inaccurate information was provided. As soon as the accurate information was obtained, that initial report was corrected. The police commissioner took immediate action when he saw the video and immediately suspended the two officers involved without pay. I might also add, that is an area of the city of Buffalo that is heavily [covered] with municipal cameras. And that certainly would have been part of any investigation.”
Blitzer asked the mayor if he condemns the officers who resigned from their unit in protest over the suspension.
Brown responded, “I think it was an action inspired by the union, the Police Benevolent Association in Buffalo putting pressure on those officers and indicating that they would withdraw support for those officers if they needed union support. I think that was a wrong action. I don’t think unions should behave that way. Unions are there to protect the worker and worker’s rights, but that was not an act to protect the worker. That was an act to intimidate police officers, and to not protect the residents of our community.”
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