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Five officers terminated after the investigation into the death of Jim Rogers

Many attendees made signs to remember Jim Rogers and protest police brutality.
Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
Many attendees made signs to remember Jim Rogers and protest police brutality.

On today's episode of The Confluence: WESA reporter Ariel Worthy catches us up on the investigation into the death of Jim Rogers, who died after being shocked by a Taser by Pittsburgh Police; we speak to the leader of Propel Schools, which operates 13 charter locations in Allegheny County, about the impact of new state charter school regulations; and we learn whether downtown Pittsburgh workers and visitors are returning to the area after the pandemic abruptly sent everyone home.

Five Pittsburgh officers fired following investigation into Jim Rogers death
(0:00 - 5:03)

Five Pittsburgh police officers were terminatedfollowing an investigation into the death of Jim Rogers. Mayor Ed Gainey held a press conference last week announcing the terminations. He also noted that three other officers who were involved in the incident remain employed.

Rogers died in a hospital in October after being shocked by a Taser multiple times by Pittsburgh police who were responding to a reported theft in Bloomfield.

WESA’s Ariel Worthy says the city didn’t reveal the names of the officers who were terminated, and that information hasn’t been made public yet.

“According to the Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt, he said that the three officers who were not fired, they were less involved in the situation,” Worthy explains. “He wouldn't really go into detail into how they were less involved, but he did say that all of those involved, they did violate some type of departmental policy.”

The officers are able to challenge the termination.

Worthy spoke with a spokesperson from the Rogers family, and she says they are upset.

“They said that it was a start to have these five officers fired, but they said more needs to happen,” she says. “There needs to be charges brought against these officers, and it took too long for all of this.”

PA regulatory body passes requirements for state charter schools
(5:03 - 13:58)

Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission last weekapproved regulations for the state’s charter schools. These regulations require brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools to adhere to new standards regarding applications to open, admissions, healthcare and more.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who has been advocating for charter reform, commended the agency, saying these regulations, “ increase transparency, equity, quality and accountability in implementation of the Charter School Law .”

Tina Chekan is the CEO and Superintendent of Propel Schools, which operate charter schools in Allegheny County, and she submitted testimony opposing the regulations.

“The current law has 17 paragraphs that are required. These regulations go to 81 paragraphs of required information. Part of your consideration today is the economic and fiscal impacts this regulation will have, which include the adverse effects on services, the paperwork required by the regulation and the cost involved.”

Chekan explains that charter schools must submit an application to the school district for approval, and she thinks the amount of documentation required under the new regulations will hinder schools' opening.

“It's complex and it makes it very challenging,” Chekan says. “For example, they're requiring five-year detailed budgets, complex staffing structures, identification of outside vendors and at the time that the charter is applying, that information may not be known.”

The IRCC voted 3-2 passing these updated rules. Chekan says she believes these regulations circumvented the legislative process. These regulations also require charter schools officials to adhere to the state’s ethics law, provide the same healthcare benefits as the authorizing school district, and more.

“I would say that charter schools are probably the most accountable public school systems,” she says. “We comply with all state and federal regulations, but the ultimate accountability on charters is closure. And unlike school districts who may be underperforming, they still don't have that same level of threat.”

Pittsburgh’s downtown is rebounding, but employees are returning at a slower pace
(13:58 - 22:30)

Downtown Pittsburgh saw about 77,000 average daily users in February of this year, that’s according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Right before the pandemic shutdown, in February 2020, downtown Pittsburgh saw about 130,000 daily users.

Jeremy Waldrup, the President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, says office workers have been the slowest to return.

“I remember thinking last beginning of last summer, like, okay, we're back, like things are going to come back. And then, unfortunately, cases surged and we retreated,” Waldrup says. “But over the last several months, we have consistently seen more workers coming down, and that's really been the slowest to return.”

Waldrup explains the lag of office workers returning downtown does impact the retail and restaurant community.

“You've seen a number of those reduce hours, and you're starting to see that slowly change,” he says. “Folks are maybe opening up for lunch where they were just opening up for dinner before, and it certainly impacts street life.”

Waldrup says in the future, the city might need to examine how some downtown buildings are being used, particularly older structures.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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