Target 11 Exclusive: Officers fired over Jim Rogers’ death will attempt to return to department

PITTSBURGH — Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle has new, exclusive details concerning the officers fired after the death of Jim Rogers, who died one day after being hit with a taser at least 10 times.

It happened in Oct. 2021, when police were called to investigate a report of a stolen bicycle.

Five officers were fired last March for violating policies and procedures. One of the fired officers was allowed to retire, so he will not be challenging the city for his job. Four other officers received suspensions.

The Pittsburgh Police Officers’ Union had been waiting to see if any criminal charges would be filed against any of the officers before proceeding to arbitration in an effort to get the officer’s reinstated. 

The suspended officers will be fighting to clear the disciplinary action on their records.

But nearly 16 months after Rogers died, no officers have been charged and the President of the Union told Target 11 that he’s not waiting any longer.  He said the officers have been in limbo for long enough.

“We’re still sort of in limbo but based on our conversations with the officers, now we feel we need to move forward, " said Swartzwelder, who also indicated that the fired officers received unemployment benefits.

Earle asked Swartzwelder if he knowns when the hearings will begin?

“When the arbitrators can schedule with our attorney and the city’s attorney.  We’re going to be moving forward, said Swartzwelder.

An Allegheny County grand jury heard testimony early last year, but no criminal charges were ever filed against any of the officers.

In December, the Allegheny County District Attorney for the first time suggested that another law enforcement agency, he declined to name, is looking into the case.

“There’s another agency looking at that situation right now. It would be inappropriate for me to do something to take any action,” said Zappala.

Allegheny County Police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General said it isn’t either of them.

The US Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh declined to comment.

At one point in Target 11′s December interview with Zappala, he appeared to point to the feds as the agency that was looking into the case.

“I’ll explain my thought process and what the feds can do,” said Zappala.

“We shouldn’t be waiting 15 and half months for a decision on whether or not any of the officers are criminally culpable,” said Beth Pittinger, the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board.

While cell phone video obtained from a neighbor captured some of the encounter, Pittinger is also question why the District Attorney has yet to release the police body cam and dash cam video, when the body cam and pole cam video in the Tyre Nichols’ encounter with police was released in less than a month.

Pittinger: In Pennsylvania, it’s discretionary to the district attorney who has charge of the investigation.

Earle: So he could release it?

Pittinger: Sure he could. Sure he could.

Earle: Do you think he should?

Pittinger: Yes.

Earle spoke by phone with the district attorney several months ago, and Zappala said that he plans to release all of the video.  There’s been no word yet when he plans to do that.

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