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Politics & Government

Five Pittsburgh Police officers involved in Jim Rogers death have been terminated

Jim Rogers vigil sign.jpg
Julia Zenkevich
/
90.5 WESA
One of the vigils called to protest the death of Jim Rogers last October

Five Pittsburgh Police officers involved in the death of Jim Rogers in October have been terminated, Mayor Ed Gainey announced Wednesday afternoon.

Three other officers tied to the incident remain employed.

Officials would not release the names of those disciplined, but Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt said each of the fired officers had violated departmental policy. The other officers were “less” involved in events, he said.

The officers "are entitled to utilize the arbitration process to challenge these decisions," Schmidt noted. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police, which would represent officers if they contest the firings, did not return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Rogers was shocked with a Taser after police responded to a reported theft in Bloomfield, and police said he did not comply with instructions. Some witnesses have contested that account, and said the bike Rogers was suspected of stealing had already been returned by the time police arrived.

Rogers died later in the hospital.

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The Alliance for Policy Accountability hailed the move with a statement that said, "Never in the history of Pittsburgh, have we seen this level of accountability when it comes to police misconduct, abuse of power or state sanctioned violence. This first step in the process of accountability is necessary to change police culture and to regain the trust of the public."

But it also urged the city disclose the nature of the training for officers involved, and that Rogers' death "highlights a dire need to rethink how we respond to emergency calls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Jim Rogers was suspected of taking a bicycle, which is not an emergency that requires the response of armed law enforcement agencies. The entire incident could have been handled with a simple conversation and absolutely did not require any use of force."

City officials announced in December that discipline would be forthcoming, the final days of former Mayor Bill Peduto's administration. Gainey said it took his office a while to come to the decision because they “worked thoroughly … without jeopardizing this case.”

“I do not want to do anything to violate this process,” he said. “Mr. Rogers deserved to live a life of joy and he didn’t deserve to lose his life at the hands of officers.”

The city has also made changes to its Taser policy that require additional training and safety procedures.

Gainey said he has not spoken to the families as of yet. But a spokesperson for the Rogers family says that while terminating five officer is "a start," more needs to be done.

"We've been angry because it's been six months for this to happen, and we think this is wrong," said Devon Adwoa. "From the beginning we've been asking for these officers to be charged. And that is still what we're demanding."

Adwoa said the family worries that police could still could their jobs back through arbitration, as has happened in previous high-profile cases of alleged misconduct: "That's a very real possibility and we refuse to see that happen."

Adwoa added that the family is not sure which officers have been terminated and which remain on the force.
"We have heard nothing from Mayor Gainey, from the District Attorney," she said. "We don't have solid confirmation about who these officers were and that's a shame."

City Councilor Deb Gross, who represents Bloomfield, said she had already heard from residents "who were pleased" by the moves.

"It does feel like progress to the community that there is support for doing disciplinary actions for officers," she said.
"We’ve been talking for a long time about holding officers accountable and this is a good first step and we’ll see what happens from here."

This story will be updated.

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