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Pittsburgh cop, after being fired for repeatedly using Taser on Jim Rogers, is reinstated

Jim Rogers appears in police body camera footage wearing gray sweatpants, a black shirt and a blue ballcap.
Todd Hollis Law
A screenshot of the footage released Monday shows Jim Rogers standing on the sidewalk talking to former Pittsburgh Police officer Keith Edmonds.

A Pittsburgh Police officer who was fired after repeatedly using his Taser on a man who later died got his job back Friday.

Keith Edmonds, who was terminated from his job in March 2022, had appealed his firing through the Fraternal Order of Police.

Edmonds shocked Jim Rogers with a Taser a reported 10 times during a 2021 arrest in Bloomfield. The city terminated him five months later.

A neutral arbitrator, in a decision issued Friday, ruled Edmonds should be reinstated, according to FOP Local 1 president Robert Swartzwelder. Under the finding, Edmonds will receive full back pay and benefits, and his employee disciplinary record will be cleared.

Police arrested Rogers while responding to a report of a stolen bicycle in Bloomfield. During that encounter, Rogers was shocked with a Taser 10 times. He died in a hospital the next day. His family later filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court.

In a statement issued Friday, the city said it was "deeply disappointed in the arbitrator's award.

"Officer Edmonds himself testified that he violated the policies of the City of Pittsburgh, however this award adopts a new standard that says that even an admission of guilt by the officer isn’t enough to warrant disciplinary action," the statement reads.

City officials disciplined nine officers involved in the incident and consistently asserted that police action led to Rogers’ death.

But Swartzwelder said, “Once all the evidence was heard,” the arbitrator sided with the police union, which had maintained that the officers were not at fault.

“That’s why the city settled seven out of the nine cases,” Swartzwelder said.

Another officer, who was suspended without pay, remains in arbitration with the city. Swartzwelder told WESA Friday that he expects the union to win that matter, too.

When asked about an appeal of the Edmonds decision, city spokesperson Maria Montaño said Pittsburgh “will pursue all available options in terms of moving forward.”

She reiterated the city’s stance that police played a key role in Rogers’ death.

“We’re deeply disappointed in today’s decision,” Montaño said. “We’re thinking of the Rogers family. If it weren’t for the actions of our officers that day, he’d still be alive.”

After reaching an $8 million settlement with the city last spring, the attorney for Rogers’ family, Todd Hollis, released more than an hour of footage from Rogers' encounter with police as well as an expert analysis provided by a former Pittsburgh officer. He said making the material available to the public was an exercise in “transparency.”

The 52-minute video starts with the 911 call received by county dispatchers on the morning of Oct. 13, 2021, then cuts to footage from Edmond’s body camera as he arrives on the scene and confronts Rogers.

The video shows Edmonds attempting to restrain Rogers before shocking him repeatedly with a Taser. Rogers is shown failing to comply with police commands, but he appears to pose little threat.

Other footage also released by Hollis shows officers receiving medical assistance on the scene of their encounter with Rogers while Rogers, held in the back of a police vehicle, screams in between labored breathing.

Eventually, officers transport Rogers across town to UPMC Mercy Hospital, but without the use of their lights or sirens. Once they arrive, officers are unable to rouse Rogers, and they remove him from the vehicle to provide chest compressions.

The city agreed to not challenge the release of the video as part of its settlement with the Rogers family. But the FOP, which represents officers shown in the video, argued last month that the court should not have allowed the footage to come out because its release violated the police union’s contract with the city.

Swartzwelder noted in February that the city remained in arbitration with two of the officers in the footage. He contended then that releasing the body camera tapes could negatively impact the arbitration process.

Mayor Ed Gainey's office rebutted those claims, stating the police contract doesn't apply to federal courts and that public access to the footage should not sway an arbitration hearing.

Updated: March 8, 2024 at 7:00 PM EST
This story has been updated to include further comments from the City of Pittsburgh.
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.