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Pittsburgh City Council approves historic settlement; member suggests officers may face more charges

PITTSBURGH — Before voting on a resolution to pay the family of Jim Rogers $8 million, some city council members spoke out about the historic settlement, the largest ever paid out by the city.

“The price tag what we have to pay as taxpayers, when our law enforcement officers don’t follow the procedures they need to follow, right. These cases cost us an enormous amount of money,” said Councilmember Barb Warwick.

Council also addressed questions they say the public raised in emails and letters sent to them about those involved in filing the lawsuit.

“The city solicitor assured us that everything is legitimate and that there is, all the paperwork that needed to be filed was filed,” said Theresa Kail-Smith, council president.

In the end, council voted unanimously to approve the settlement, even though no officers have been criminally charged.

Four officers were fired for excessive force and failing to get Rogers medical attention.

Four others faced disciplinary action.

The city said all the officers failed to follow proper procedures and regulations.

Two officers involved in the case retired.

All of the officers are fighting for their jobs through arbitration hearings.

The police union is defending the officers at those hearings.

One officer has already reached a settlement with the city to return to his job, after agreeing to a 30-day unpaid suspension.

Chief Investigator Rick Earle has followed this case since the beginning two years ago.

He also questioned the Mayor about this settlement.

Earle: There was a settlement reached?

Mayor Gainey: We knew where it was going.

Earle: You didn’t have an option, you didn’t have a choice?

Gainey: We knew where it was going.

The mayor suggesting that the city might lose if the case went to arbitration.

While a county grand jury wrapped last year without filing any charges, one council member who was briefed behind closed doors by the city attorney, suggested the case hasn’t been closed yet.

Earle: Any concern that you are paying out all this money and nobody is being held accountable?

Daniel Lavelle: I can’t go into detail but I do know officers are being looked at.

Earle also questioned the council president about the historic settlement.

Earle: Do you think you should have waited to pay this out until after it was completed?

Kail-Smith: We talked to our solicitor for advice and we felt that this was the best settlement that they could reach at this time.

Earle also spoke with attorney Todd Hollis, who filed the federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers. He said he’s disappointed that the city police bureau has apparently failed to make any changes since the death of Jim Rogers.

“While I am ecstatic that they (Rogers’ family) will receive this result, I think what is more tragic is that Mr. Rogers died having committed no crime, and but for money, no real change has been implemented. As a matter of fact, our district attorney has refused to grant me permission to release the video to the citizens of the city of Pittsburgh, who are ultimately responsible for paying this very large settlement amount, and because we can’t show the video, that won’t inspire the change to prevent another citizen from facing the same results,” said Rogers’ family attorney Todd Hollis.

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