PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Five Pittsburgh police officers were fired and three were reinstated in what Mayor Ed Gainey hopes marks the beginning of police reform in the city after the tasing death of Jim Rogers.
KDKA-TV confirmed through sources earlier Wednesday that the firings were imminent, and Gainey made it official at an afternoon news conference.
The fired officers will have the option to retire. Three other officers will be reinstated, but will be forced to retrain. The officers are able to appeal via arbitration.
In announcing the terminations, an emotional Gainey shared for the first time his personal feeling about the tasing of Jim Rogers in Bloomfield five months ago and the actions of eight police officers who failed to prevent his death.
"Jim Rogers deserved to live a long life," Gainey said. "He didn't deserve to lose his life at the hands of city police officers."
Since that day, the officers have been on paid leave while the city has conducted an extensive internal investigation. After all eight appeared before a disciplinary panel early this year, Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt approved the recommended discipline.
Schmidt would not share the disciplinary report but KDKA's own investigation of call logs and 911 tapes found Roger received no medical care at the scene and that it took some 37 minutes after the tasing to transport him to UPMC Mercy, where he arrived unconscious and later died.
Attorney Bob DelGreco represents officer Boss who drove Rogers to the hospital in his police cruiser. DelGreco called his firing unwarranted.
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"He is a nurturing parent, he's a doting husband, very active in the community and he's a 22-year veterans police officer with an impeccable, immaculate record. From where I stand, the people of the city of Pittsburgh have been deprived of an excellent public servant," said DelGreco.
The officers will have 14 days to appeal the discipline to arbitration and union head Robert Swartzwelder said all eight will.
"At the conclusion of that case, it will determine if the discipline will be upheld, modified or even eliminated," he said.
But Gainey said he hopes the firings mark the beginning of better police-community relations.
"Today sets us on a pathway to improve police-community relations. We need to work together to honor the memory of Jim Roger to make a fair and equitable city for us all," Gainey said.
A grand jury met this month to determine if the eight Pittsburgh police officers should face charges. In a statement, Rogers' family pushed for criminal charges "as soon as possible."
The family released the following statement:
"There is nothing respectable or just about a process that takes 6 months to fire officers who committed a murder. Up until recently these officers were still being paid by the city, yet the Rogers family continues to grieve and does not have justice. This 'process' fundamentally protects the police as do Mayor Gainey, Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt, DA Zappala, and the FOP. Their collective refusal to release the names of which officers will be fired and which will remain on the force instills a sense of fear in our communities. There is no transparency in that, and even just transparency is not enough. We demand these officers be charged criminally for their crimes, and refuse to except anything less from these people who call themselves public servants."
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner had ruled the case an accident, which is one of five manners of death recognized by the state.
Rogers was tased several times by police when they said he became "non-compliant" during a call for a suspicious person involved in a theft in October.
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