Beachwood police officer Blake G. Rogers is appealing his Feb. 22 firing by Beachwood Mayor Martin S. Horwitz.
He was on paid administrative leave at an annual salary of $92,206.40 plus benefits starting from the day of the shooting.
The city accused Rogers of violating four sections of Beachwood Police Department’s use of force policy, three of its standards of conduct and its ethics code.
A Feb. 23 news release from the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council, Inc. said Rogers would appeal and quoted its executive director, Gwen Callender, as calling the process “outrageous.”
“We find this firing and the process, or lack of such, to be outrageous,” Callender stated in the release. “Officer Rogers’ actions were investigated thoroughly by (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) and on Oct. 9, 2020 a no bill was the result. Nonetheless Officer Rogers was needlessly kept on paid leave for four more months. We will vigorously fight this wrongful termination.”
Rogers was represented by Chuck Aliff, a staff representative at the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council, Inc., at a predisciplinary hearing Feb. 18 via Zoom.
Rogers and his wife, Jacalyn, have sued the city of Beachwood, partly over the length of time the investigation has taken. He will appeal the firing through an arbitrator, according to Beachwood police contract.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 86 president Maxwell Zugay called the police chief’s decision not to conduct an internal investigation “highly irregular.”
“A termination of employment done without the essential step of conducting an internal investigation is as bizarre as it is disconcerting,” Zugay stated in a Feb. 23 news release announcing Rogers’ appeal.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury returned a no bill in October 2020, finding Rogers had not broken any laws.
Beachwood Police Chief Kelly J. Stillman, who replaced Police Chief Gary Haba after he retired last summer and was not employed by the city at the time the incident occurred, conducted a review once the grand jury returned its determination. In his letter, Horwitz said Stillman did not conduct his own internal investigation and instead “relied on the materials contained in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation file,” which began investigating Rogers the day of the shooting.
Horwitz wrote he would not release Stillman’s findings about Rogers “per the investigatory work product privilege,” but would provide the charges and the evidence relating to them.
“You are not entitled to Chief Stillman’s thoughts and analysis,” Horwitz wrote to Rogers in the termination letter.
In addition, Horwitz wrote Aliff argued the following for Rogers: “(a) The suspect drove at you with his car; (b) the suspect ran over your foot; (c) the suspect pled guilty to attempted felonious assault; (d) you acted in criminal defense; (e) no criminal charges were brought against you; (f) no charges were recommended against you; (g) there is no evidence you acted dishonestly or duplicitously; and (h) you are not guilty of the charges and did nothing wrong.”
Horwitz disagreed with Aliff’s argument.
“The evidence does not support your arguments,” Horwitz wrote. “Instead the evidence demonstrates (Rogers) (1) failed to properly perform your duties as it relates to the officer involved shooting of June 27, 2019, and (2) were not entirely honest and forthcoming about the shooting. Your use of deadly force against a shoplifter of a $60 hat with bystanders (including children) in close proximity violated city policies. Your arguments are contradicted by the video evidence and third-party witnesses.”