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Courts & Justice

Pittsburgh activists say the city needs to do more in the wake of Jim Rogers' death

Jim Rogers press conference rally protest vigil sign.jpg
Julia Zenkevich
/
90.5 WESA
Many attendees made signs to remember Jim Rogers and protest police brutality.

One day after the City of Pittsburgh announced discipline and new policy changes for police in the wake of the death of Jim Rogers, there is criticism that the response hasn't gone far enough.

"We — along with the family and other members of the community — have been calling for justice and transparency," said Tracy Merrick.

Merrick is a member of First United Methodist Church, which has held vigils for Rogers. Merrick said the city's response to the death has so far been "incomplete."

Rogers died in October, hours after officers used a Taser on him. Police had been called by a resident who alleged that he was stealing a bicycle. Officers claimed Rogers was non-compliant when he was arrested in connection with the theft. But according to neighbors, Rogers had already returned the bike before police arrived, and he was experiencing a crisis before officers shocked him multiple times.

The city announced Tuesday that after an internal investigation, it would discipline eight officers and make a number of policy changes. Those include enhanced training for Taser use, and more rigorous procedures to assure that people who are stunned with the devices receive medical attention. But while the Tribune-Review reportedly obtained a copy of the internal report that revealed details of the incident and the names of officers, the city has not done so officially.

"We've been looking for the names of the officers to be released, release the unedited body camera footage, the release of the autopsy findings," Merrick said. So far, none of that material has been made public. State law makes it difficult to access body camera tape, and union contract provisions limit what the city can publicly disclose about individual discipline.

Allegheny County Police are performing a separate investigation into Richards' death, and District Attorney Stephen Zappala has yet to decide whether to proceed with criminal charges. But for now, Merrick said, "We don't know what accountability means in terms of the police department, and certainly not in terms of the DA's office at this point. We think it's a matter of holding the police, who escalate situations, accountable for having done so."

Rogers' family has not publicly spoken out about the city's response. Other groups, meanwhile, have responded more positively to the city's move.

The Black Political Empowerment Project released a statement Tuesday evening which said that while the family needed to be compensated, "We appreciate that this tragic death was not ignored, and that this needless death was apparently taken seriously. .... We cannot bring back James Rogers, but his death apparently will not be in vain, and will lay the foundation for a more just, fair, informed, and level of sensitivity in the use of force in Pittsburgh for years to come."

Chris Potter contributed to this report.