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Former Pittsburgh Police Officer Sues City And Top Officials

An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
Former Pittsburgh police officer Robert Kramer (left) and attorney Joel Sansone spoke to reporters Thursday.

A former Pittsburgh police officer sued the city and top police brass in federal court Thursday, alleging he was wrongly arrested and then fired from the police bureau in 2017.

Robert Kramer had been accused of brandishing a handgun at a motorist in a fit of road rage while off-duty. But the former officer said that allegation was based on a reckless investigation. He said Detective Edward Green and Cmdr. Shirley Epperson, also named as defendants in the suit, ignored evidence that could have cleared him.

A jury acquitted Kramer of simple assault in 2018, and an arbitrator ruled in March that he was fired without cause. But Kramer's attorney, Joel Sansone, said that if his client were to resume working for the Pittsburgh police, the false accusations mean his client would not be able to trust his former colleagues in dangerous situations.

“My career as a police officer is over because I can’t function safely after all that has been said and done about me,” Kramer told reporters Thursday.

The lawsuit says Green and Epperson did not disclose in a police report that Kramer’s accuser, Jesse Smith, could not identify him in a photo array. The report also did not mention that, shortly after his encounter with Kramer, Smith posted a video to his own Facebook page where Smith made “multiple derogatory comments regarding police officers,” according to the suit.

Kramer, who is white, also filed a federal labor complaint against the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Thursday, saying he had been the subject of racial discrimination. According to Kramer’s filings, Green is black and was not fired after lying under oath about the investigation that led to Kramer’s arrest.

Sansone, a civil rights attorney, said he might ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the matter, depending on the result of Kramer’s complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“I know from my work in this field that no fair person, despite color or creed, believes in falsely accusing anyone – let alone an outstanding police officer, no matter what his color,” Sansone said.

The suit also accuses Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto of making false statements about Kramer in the media. A city spokesman declined to comment.