On the same day its first Black mayor took office promising a more equitable city, Pittsburgh is preparing to ax six cops involved in the horrific death of a Black, homeless man.
Jim Rogers, 54, was killed last October when Pittsburgh officer Keith Edmonds shocked him 10 times with a Taser in an incident that started when somebody called the cops because Rogers was riding a bike left on the curb for anyone to take. The local coroner ruled Rogers’ death “accidental,”but internal police reports pointed to “procedural failures” by the cops involved, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The city’s police union took issue with those reports, because of course.
The death sparked days of protests and even an editorial by the city’s largest newspaper demanding answers.
Now, it looks like the city is singing a new song to the officers involved: you about to lose yo’ job.
Earle learned in December that the highest-ranking police officer on duty that day retired ahead of possible disciplinary action.
“I do absolutely agree with the decision. Based on what we know now, which is what the public knows, it is certainly a negative on the officers, and on the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police,” said Beth Pittinger with the Citizen’s Police Review Board.
Pittinger pointed out, just because these officers may be fired, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will face criminal charges.
Pittsburgh’s police bureau has had problematic, violent officers in its ranks for decades. In 1997, it became the first department in the country to enter a consent decree–basically a detailed list of the ways it had to clean up its act or risk a federal lawsuit–with the Justice Department. That didn’t stop the problems: between 2010 and 2015 Pittsburgh spent $4.9 million on settlements over police misconduct (end qualified immunity, anyone?).
Pittsburgh cops brutalized and disfigured then 18-year-old Jordan Miles in 2014, and then took the stand and blamed him for what happened. Cops in the same department shot and paralyzed Leon Ford in 2012 after mistaking him for someone else. The city paid Ford $5.5 million but didn’t fire the cop, David Derbish, who took away his ability to walk.
Then there was that time Pittsburgh hired a police chief who dared to acknowledge there was racism in his department, which drove the police union absolutely crazy. He lasted two years in the job before he had enough.