11 Investigates: City plans to fight reinstatement of police officer fired after Jim Rogers’ death

PITTSBURGH — Chief Investigator Rick Earle has learned that the City of Pittsburgh plans to appeal an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate fired police officer Keith Edmonds to Common Pleas court.

That decision comes after the city solicitor at a news conference three months ago made a startling statement that the city could not appeal the decision.

>> Pittsburgh police officer fired after Jim Rogers’ death reinstated

“Due to Act 111 matter of arbitration is binding, which means whatever the decision of that arbitrator, the city has to abide by, and the city can’t appeal that decision,” said City of Pittsburgh solicitor Kyrsia Kubiak.

But as 11 Investigates has reported in the past, the city has appealed plenty of arbitration decisions involving disciplinary action of police officers.

And despite the solicitor’s comments in December, 11 Investigates has learned that the city plans to appeal the Edmonds’ ruling to Common Pleas court in an attempt to keep Edmonds off the force.

>> Bodycam video released of interactions between Jim Rogers, Pittsburgh police before, during tasing

After repeated requests since the arbitrator’s decision was handed down Friday, a spokesperson for Mayor Ed Gainey Tuesday morning finally sent the following statement to 11 Investigates.

“Yes, the city plans to appeal the arbitrator’s award. Edmonds’ reinstatement will not be implemented until the city’s appeals on his reinstatement have been exhausted,” said Maria Montano, the mayor’s communications director.

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Edmonds was fired two years ago after repeatedly tasing Jim Rogers while investigating a report of a stolen bike in Bloomfield.

Rogers went into cardiac arrest as police drove him to the hospital. He died the next day.

>> Man tased by Pittsburgh police had cocaine in system, no seizure medication

The medical examiner ruled his death accidental but the city fired Edmonds and three other officers for excessive force, and failing to get Rogers medical attention.

The city also settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the Rogers family for $8 million.

The Allegheny County district attorney convened a grand jury but no criminal charges were filed against the officers, and all of the fired officers have been reinstated.

Earle questioned Pittsburgh city councilman Anthony Coghill about the decision to settle the lawsuit, while all of the fired officers have been ordered back to the force.

Earle: All the officers have gotten their jobs back. You paid $8 million. Did the city jump the gun here?

Coghill: I understand the question but I really don’t get into internal affairs.

Coghill is the chair of the public safety committee, which oversees police.

“I understand the concerns. It was egregious as to what went on there that day. I think everybody is concerned about that and that needs more looking into,” said Coghill, indicating support of the city’s decision to appeal Edmonds’ case.

The president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents police officers and initially appealed the city’s decision to fire the four officers, sent the following statement to 11 Investigates.

“The FOP is not surprised that the City is appealing the Officer Edmonds case. However, like all appeals, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Appeals of arbitration awards are intentionally legislatively and judicially limited. That is why every appeal the City files they lose. They do not know the law nor do they respect the law. Officer Edmonds will eventually return to duty and the City will have to pay him a substantial sum in back pay and benefits,” said union president Bob Swartzwelder.

Three of the four officers have returned to work with back pay. An arbitrator ordered Edmonds reinstated after hearing evidence in the case, but he won’t be allowed to return until the appeal is heard.

>> 3rd Pittsburgh police officer fired after Jim Rogers’ death reinstated

It’s unclear when that will happen.

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