Pittsburgh Police Union, DA weigh in on release of police bodycam video of Jim Rogers incident

The president of the Pittsburgh Police Union is accusing the City of Pittsburgh administration of conspiring with the Jim Rogers’ family attorney, who settled an $8 million wrongful death lawsuit with the city, to release the bodycam videos in violation of the union contract to embarrass police officers.

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

And Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, who declined to file charges against any of the officers, said he’s still troubled by what the bodycam and dashcam videos show.

The videos are difficult to watch.

Pittsburgh police officer Keith Edmonds is seen on body cam video repeatedly tasing Jim Rogers, as Rogers said he’s done nothing wrong.

At one point, Rogers tells Edmonds he needs to go to the hospital.

Edmonds was called to Bloomfield to investigate a report of a stolen bicycle. Rogers matched the description of the person of interest, so Edmonds began questioning him.

Rogers, at first, clearly cooperated with Edmonds, but when Edmonds asked for his wallet and then reached for it, Rogers pulled away and would not comply with Edmonds’ commands to put his hands behind his back so he could handcuff him.

Edmonds then repeatedly used his taser on Rogers.

Zappala said he is troubled by Edmond’s actions.

“Clearly what the officer did I felt in this particular death was wrong, was contrary to training,” said Zappala.

When backup units arrive, Rogers is pushed to the ground and handcuffed.

He’s then taken to the back of a police cruiser, where he sat for 15 minutes with no medical attention.

He repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and pleaded for help, banging his head off the back seat and repeatedly moaning.

Zappala showed the videos and other evidence to a grand jury, but no charges were ever filed against any of the officers.

Zappala said today that the medical examiner’s report concluding that Rogers’ death was accidental played a key role in the case.

He admitted that made it difficult to get an indictment.

“When the medical examiner says it’s accidental, that means there’s no criminal intent. That, even for us, that’s a difficult road to hoe,” said Zappala.

Zappala also said it’s unacceptable that Rogers didn’t get medical attention until it was too late.

“There were three hospitals that were bypassed before they wound up at Mercy (hospital). That’s reprehensible,” said Zappala.

Earle also spoke with Pittsburgh Police Union President Bob Swartzwelder.

Earle: “Did these officers kill him?”

Swartzwelder: Absolutely not. And if these officers missed something medically, that’s one aspect verses the officers’ actions that caused his death.

Swartzwelder admitted officers may have failed to recognize Rogers was in medical distress but said they didn’t cause his death.

Three of the four fired officers have already been reinstated with back pay.

A medical expert for the police union claims Rogers died from a seizure disorder.

Law enforcement sources also said Rogers had cocaine in his system, was in alcohol withdrawal and hadn’t taken his seizure medication.

Swartzwelder would not discuss that.

He also blasted the city, claiming they used Rogers’ family attorney to release the videos, even before Officer Edmonds had his hearing in an attempt to get his job back.

Earle: Does this jeopardize the legal proceedings?

Swartzwelder: 100% and the city should be embarrassed, and they should be ashamed for recklessly releasing this material to the public without context.

Since Rogers’ death, Pittsburgh police said in a news release Tuesday that they’ve made several policy and procedural changes.

Pittsburgh mayor, public safety respond to release of bodycam footage of Jim Rogers’ tasing

Among those changes, assigning an officer to monitor a prisoner during transport, training all officers on the duty to intervene, and retraining officers how to avoid single-officer tactics.

The city also reiterated that a federal judge granted permission to Rogers’ family attorney, Todd Hollis, to release the videos.

While that is accurate, the city, in a court filing, did not object to the release.

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