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On Feb. 22, 2021, Beachwood police officer Blake G. Rogers was fired after being on fully paid leave for the past 20 months since June 27, 2019, when he fired two shots into the driver's side window of a fleeing suspected shoplifter's car, as it drove away from him in the Beachwood Mall parking lot. You can click here to see the video footage of this incident.
The small circle of City officials who saw this footage in the days after the shooting, made the decision to keep its existence unknown to the public, media and from what I understand, most of City Council. This effort was successful until June 16, 2020 when this anonymous letter was mailed to residents and media, alerting them of issues about this shooting.
On July 29, 2020, the City finally stopped fighting against the release of the footage, more than 13 months after the incident and almost a full month after Channel 19 made a public records request for it on July 2, 2020, which they initially denied on July 16, 2020.
While the City could have (and should have) begun the proper process to review the incident to determine if Officer Rogers should face discipline/termination immediately after BCI concluded its independent investigation and provided the City their findings dated Oct. 28, 2019, this process didn't begin until after the city finally stopped fighting against the public release of the video footage.
Rogers immediately filed an appeal after the City's Feb 22, 2021 decision to fire him. More than 7 months later, on October 12, 2021, the arbitrator released his 27 page findings which concluded it WAS NOT a justified use of deadly force, but despite this, Officer Rogers firing must be reinstated with back pay, because of mistakes the City made writing, “the City committed due process errors in its response to the grievant's actions in the June 27, 2019 officer-involved shooting. Given the number and seriousness of these errors, the arbitrator finds the City did not have just cause to terminate the grievant, and orders the remedy indicated herein.“
The arbitrator wrote that it is his “opinion that the grievant's actions are not those of someone who believes he may be hit by a vehicle. The arbitrator is of the opinion that the typical reaction of a person confronted by a serious threat unexpectedly and suddenly is to recoil. The grievant makes no motion to separate himself from the proximity of the vehicle. Rather, he moves in the same direction as the vehicle before his first shot, and continues in this same direction, alongside the vehicle, as he fires the second shot.”
The arbitrator further wrote, “the vehicle was well on its way past the grievant when the shots were fired. Even had the suspect turned hard towards the grievant as the shots were fired, it is highly unlikely the grievant would have been hit by the vehicle. While it is acknowledged that law enforcement officers often have to make split-second decisions that may have life or death consequences for themselves and/or others, at the same time they are responsible for exercising restraint when circumstances warrant doing so.”
To explain why he ruled that Officer Rogers be reinstated due to numerous and serious errors made by the City, despite concluding that the June 27, 2019 incident was not a justified use of deadly force, he wrote "the initial complaint against Jones, filed June 28, 2019 in Shaker Heights Municipal Court on behalf of the City of Beachwood, states “After backing up, JONES then put the vehicle in drive and drove forward at a high rate of speed toward Ptl Rogers.” (emphasis in original) The City cannot have it both ways. It cannot state the vehicle was driving toward the grievant when it is seeking to prosecute Jones, and later claim it was not driving toward the grievant when it is seeking to terminate him.”
The City of Beachwood appealed the arbitrator's ruling. On February 24, 2023, Judge Peter Corrigan denied Beachwood's appeal, agreeing with the decision of the arbitrator, requiring the City to hire back Officer Rogers, pay his legal fees and all lost wages since his termination more than two years earlier on February 22, 2021.
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that numerous serious mistakes were made by the City. It is almost impossible to follow the proper protocol and process required to fire a police officer when for 13 months after the incident the City was fighting to keep the existence of the footage from being known by the public, media and most of council. It turns out that those two things are hard to do at that the same time and will end up costing the city well over a half million dollars when it is all said and done.
Anyone who was outraged enough The question people should be asking is if anyone is going to demand that those responsible for these mistakes be held to account for them?