PITTSBURGH — Channel 11 Chief Investigative reporter Rick Earle has confirmed through multiple sources that a Pittsburgh Police officer fired 18 months ago in connection with the Jim Rogers tasing case has now been reinstated with 17 months back pay.
Pat Desaro agreed to a 30-day unpaid suspension, according to multiple sources.
The executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board says this raises a lot of questions about the city’s initial decision to fire Desaro and four other officers last year.
“If you’re going to fire somebody, do it the proper way and make sure that your facts support the decision. Not, not populism, not popular outcry for something to happen to somebody before all the facts are known,” said Beth Pittinger, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board.
Last March, Mayor Ed Gainey announced the firing of Desaro and four other officers for violating rules and regulations during the arrest of Jim Rogers.
Officer Keith Edmonds, who was also fired, tased Rogers 10 times while investigating a report of a stolen bicycle.
Edmonds said Rogers failed to comply with his commands.
Rogers went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died the next day.
The city said officers used excessive force and failed to get Rogers medical attention on scene.
The officers were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, but no criminal charges were ever filed, and the police union is now taking the cases to arbitration in an effort to get the officers reinstated.
It’s unclear if any of the officers ever testified before the grand jury. They could have invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Desaro is the first officer to get his job back.
But Pittinger says the others may return as well unless the city can prove the officers caused or contributed to Rogers’ death.
The medical examiner ruled the death accidental and said he died from a lack of oxygen to the brain.
“I think that the responsibility for his death is still fuzzy, you know, we really can’t say this is period, end of discussion. This is why and how, and these are the people responsible for it,” said Pittinger.
The other fired officers haven’t completed the arbitration process, so there’s been no decision on their future.
One of the suspended officers had his suspension reduced during arbitration.
As we’ve reported, the city agreed to pay the family of Jim Rogers a record $8 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
I reached out to the family attorney Todd Hollis, and asked him for comment on the reinstatement of Officer Desaro.
“I have no comment,” said Hollis.
Both the city and the police officers’ union have said they are not allowed to comment on these cases, at this time.
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