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8 Pittsburgh police to be disciplined in Taser death of Jim Rogers, city says

Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
Protesters have demanded accountability for the death of Jim Rogers at a number of demonstrations

A series of procedural failures led to the October death of a man in Bloomfield after officers used a Taser on him, according to an internal review by Pittsburgh Police. Eight officers will face “varying levels of discipline” as a result, city officials said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

The statement did not name the officers and said that, in accordance with the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, the city would not discuss details of discipline.

“Jim Rogers will serve as a sober reminder of the tremendous responsibility all officers bear when they wear the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police badge,” said Police Chief Scott Schubert in a statement. “Every resident and visitor to the City of Pittsburgh is owed the highest standard of care when they are in the custody of Pittsburgh Police.”

Officers were called to respond to a bicycle theft in Bloomfield on Oct. 13. They claimed Jim Rogers was non-compliant when he was arrested in connection with the theft. Neighbors said Rogers returned the bike before police arrived and that he was experiencing a crisis before officers shocked him multiple times.

Rogers was transported to UPMC Mercy hospital, where he died the next day.

Rogers has been the subject of several community protests calling for more transparency into the death investigation and for the officers involved to be named publicly.

The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office is still investigating the death and whether charges should be filed against officers involved in Rogers' arrest. A spokesman said Tuesday it is unclear when the investigation will conclude.

The city statement also detailed a number of policy changes in the wake of Rogers’ death. All police officers have been required to take a Taser refresher course and take an exam in addition to yearly recertification, according to the statement. Police also will be required to obtain certification as Emergency Medical Responders.

A Critical Incident Review Board convened to investigate the incident also has recommended other changes, including an assessment by emergency medical services staff of anyone shocked with a Taser and retraining officers on their “duty to intervene” policy, according to the statement.

The Tribune-Review has reported that an internal report of Rogers’ death includes heavy criticism of supervisors on the scene for not doing more to ascertain Rogers’ condition or ensure his safety.

“It is imperative that every critical incident is reviewed promptly,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich in the statement. “By identifying the problem, it allows us to expeditiously make corrections that are put into policy in a timely manner.”

The internal review and subsequent changes were a key remaining goal for outgoing Mayor Bill Peduto. He said he didn’t want to leave office without suggesting ways to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.

“I want to be able to hand to [Mayor-elect Ed Gainey], ‘Here are the recommendations of changes that we need to make. And here are recommendations of how we can be a better police department,’” Peduto told WESA earlier in the day Tuesday.

In a separate statement released Tuesday evening, Peduto said: “It is an absolute tragedy that Jim Rogers lost his life while in Pittsburgh Police custody — a failure of a system that should have protected his life. This critical incident included multiple failures.

"Today’s announcement around pending disciplinary action and policy changes is a starting point," Peduto added in the statement. "We must continue to make reforms in policing and within society to do what we can to make sure this never happens again and that Mr. Rogers’ family receives the justice they deserve.”

Updated: December 21, 2021 at 5:17 PM EST
Updated to include a statement from Mayor Bill Peduto.
Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.