The City of Pittsburgh has determined it needs to fire seven cops who were involved in the death of a Black man last October, but it can’t because of a personnel move made by the new mayoral administration.
54-year-old Jim Rogers, who was homeless, died last October, the day after Pittsburgh officers shocked him with a Taser multiple times in an incident that started with him riding an unwanted bike that had been abandoned on a porch.
Now, WPXI reports that that Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has completed its investigation and determined that all but one of the officers involved should lose their jobs over the incident. There’s one problem: there’s currently no one in city government with the power to fire a cop since Mayor Ed Gainey–the city’s first Black mayor–fired former the public safety director when he took office in January.
That means that the seven cops, who haven’t been publicly identified, could continue to escape accountability while on paid administrative leave for months.
Shortly before taking office in early January, Mayor Ed Gainey did not retain public safety director Wendell Hissrich.
He has yet to appoint a new director and under the municipal code, the interim director does not have the power to hire and fire employees.
Sources tell Target 11 that the police officers’ union has notified the city of this discrepancy.
Target 11 reached out to the Mayor’s office.
A spokesman sent us this statement from the solicitor’s office, “State statute and the police labor contract limit the city’s ability to speak on disciplinary investigations at this time.”
The officers have been on paid administrative leave since October and it appears likely they will continue to be paid until a public safety director is appointed.
The public safety director will ultimately decide whether to uphold the firings or reduce them.
If the terminations are upheld, the union will appeal to arbitration.
An investigation into whether any officers should face criminal liability for Rogers’ death was also dealt a setback in January when a judge denied Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office access to a police department’s internal report on the incident, even though major parts of it had already been leaked to the press.
Protestors have pushed for answers and accountability in the case since last year, and even a local newspaper’s editorial board has advocated that the DA turn his investigation over to Pennsylvania’s attorney general, a move that hasn’t happened.