Judge orders reinstatement for fired Pittsburgh police officer
An Allegheny County judge upheld an arbitrator’s ruling to reinstate a former Pittsburgh police officer who was fired in 2017 after a reported road rage incident.
Common Pleas Judge Donald R. Walko Jr. in a one-sentence ruling determined that Robert Kramer should be returned to his job, according to a court order released Tuesday.
“The city of Pittsburgh’s petition for statutory appeal is overruled and the arbitration award is confirmed,” the judge wrote.
Pittsburgh officials declined comment, saying attorneys are reviewing the decision. Kramer, who previously said he could never return to work in a department that accused him of criminal behavior while knowing he was innocent, also declined comment.
“(The) ruling by Judge Walko is once again a reaffirmation that the criminal justice system and the civil justice system work,” said Kramer’s attorney, Joel Sansone. “There were bogus charges filed that never had any substance to them in the first place and they fired him, and then when they lost the initial round they appealed to the Common Pleas Court.”
Sansone noted that the city has 30 days to appeal. If the city lets the ruling stand, he said, Kramer must decide whether he wants to return as an officer.
Pittsburgh police charged Kramer following a complaint filed by Jesse Smith contending that Kramer pulled up beside him on a Sheraden street while off duty on May 3, 2017, and began arguing about speeding and erratic driving. Smith said Kramer pointed a silver revolver at him.
Kramer denied the allegation, saying he had a silver cellphone in his hand. An Allegheny County jury last year acquitted him of a charge of simple assault and an arbitration panel in March ordered the city to reinstate Kramer with retroactive pay.
The city fired him, alleging among other things that he lied during an investigation about owning a silver handgun. Kramer denied lying about the gun.
Michael Zobrak, a neutral arbitrator, noted in a written ruling that the city failed to have investigating detectives testify during the arbitration hearing. He said the defense had no chance to cross-examine them. He ruled that that city failed to establish just cause for the firing.
The city appealed the decision to county court.
Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1, said the city should have reinstated Kramer after the arbitrator ruled in his favor.
“We’re very pleased for Officer Kramer,” Swartzwelder said. “Hopefully the city will do the right thing and reinstate him and pay him the back pay that he’s owed. This is costing the taxpayers a lot of money, and it’s putting the police officer in financial ruin. They’re driving this kid into bankruptcy.”
Kramer in May sued the city, alleging malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence and racial discrimination. The lawsuit is pending in federal court. It names police Chief Scott Schubert, Mayor Bill Peduto, Detective Edward Green and retired police Cmdr. Shirley Epperson as defendants.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .