PITTSBURGH — The family of Jim Rogers and the city of Pittsburgh have reached a historic settlement agreement. They’ve agreed to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit for $8 million dollars.
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Thursday, Roger’s brother, his attorney, and a handful of community activists announced the settlement at a news conference at the location where Rogers was hit with a taser at least ten times. He died at the hospital the next day.
“It was the most inhumane thing I’ve ever seen. It was just unreasonable is the word I’m going to use,” said James Frierson, Jim Rogers’ brother.
Frierson spoke out at that news conference about the disturbing cell phone video that shows his brother being tased by a Pittsburgh Police Officer at least ten times.
Frierson said the money will help Rogers’ daughter raise her kids, but it won’t bring his brother back.
“We’re just happy she’s able to get a little peace, but there’s never going to be closure, ever. You can’t unsee what we saw,” said Frierson.
Police were investigating a report of a stolen bicycle.
A neighbor said Rogers took the bike, but family attorney Todd Hollis said Rogers had returned the bike before police even arrived.
“500,000 volts of electricity went through a man who supposedly stole a bike, while residents of this community watched,” said attorney Todd Hollis. “He was treated worse than an animal.”
Police have said the officer tased Rogers because he was uncooperative.
The director of the Black Political Empowerment project became emotional when he addressed that at the news conference. He had met and interacted with Jim Rogers before.
“He was just a gentle soul. Anybody who met him would know that. He was not a threat to anybody,” said Tim Stevens, who fought back the tears when he spoke at the news conference.
Five Pittsburgh Police Officers were eventually fired for violating regulations, including failing to get Rogers timely medical attention.
He wasn’t treated at the scene despite repeatedly asking for help. Hollis said Roger continued to ask for medical assistance while sitting in the back of a police car for nearly 30 minutes.
He didn’t get any medical attention until police arrived at the hospital with him in the back of the patrol car. By that time, Rogers was already in cardiac arrest.
The same officer who had tased him earlier that day then began CPR on him.
Rogers was admitted to Mercy Hospital where he died the next day.
Hollis said police could have stopped at two other hospitals that were much closer but instead drove to Mercy.
“Had he been giving medical attention sooner, he would have survived,” Hollis said.
Officers typically take suspects to Mercy because it’s close to the Allegheny County jail.
The Rogers family, through their attorney, also sent a list of changes they want Pittsburgh Police to implement, including better training on the use of tases, mandatory medical checks of suspects, and a public database on every use of force incident.
A grand jury heard testimony and evidence in the case, but no criminal charges were ever filed against any of the officers.
The District Attorney has said that the Feds are looking into the case, and at one point he indicated he would consider filing charges against the officers if the Feds decide not to.
Hollis said Thursday the family is more interested in changes than charges.
“They are interested in accountability. They are interested in making sure police officers are properly trained. They’re interested in making sure this doesn’t happen again to someone else’s relative,” said Hollis.
Hollis also said Thursday the city has agreed to meet and discuss the list of proposed changes.
Mayor Ed Gainey Thursday offered his condolences once again to the family of Jim Rogers in the following statement:
“My heart is with Jim Rogers’s family, friends, and loved ones Thursday. As we put his family’s lawsuit against the city behind us, the city continues to pray for the family over this unnecessary loss of life.
“I took office in the wake of the incident that took Jim Rogers’ life, and the investigation and disciplinary proceedings revealed a number of concerns in our Bureau of Police. While the prosecution of police officers is not in the city’s power, creating a Bureau rooted in community norms and civil rights is. So, we got to work.
“We reached a historic agreement with the FOP that will allow us to implement a disciplinary matrix that provides officers and the public with a clear understanding of what happens if an officer violates the law or breaks department policy and procedure. We’re finalizing our staffing study that will guide us in the right size and right role for our police bureau.
“We launched our Plan for Peace that emphasizes focused deterrence, diversion, and real community policing. We’re seeking accountability, not just for those immediately implicated in police violence, but also for those in the chain of command who allow poor practices and violations of policy to persist. And, very soon, we’ll have a new chief of police to continue that accountability.
“In addition to the monetary remedy of this settlement, we will also be reviewing our use of force policies with the family and other advocates. We are committed to changing policing in our city and working to rebuild community police relationships so that everyone in Pittsburgh feels safe.”
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