Pittsburgh appeals arbitration ruling that reinstated police officer who was fired
Pittsburgh has appealed an arbitrator’s ruling that reinstated a police officer who was terminated after an alleged road rage incident in 2017.
Officer Robert Kramer was charged with pointing a gun at another motorist while off duty on May 3, 2017. 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.
Kramer’s attorneys have described the situation as “malicious prosecution” and the head of the Pittsburgh police union on Friday slammed the city for appealing the arbitration award.
“We know of no evidence that would suggest that Officer Kramer was guilty of anything and any suggestion to the contrary is absurd,” said Downtown attorney Joel Sansone. “This was malicious prosecution.”
Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, declined comment as did Kramer.
Pittsburgh on Monday appealed the arbitration award to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, arguing that the panel violated its rights by denying a motion to introduce evidence that showed Kramer lied during an arbitration hearing. The city did not offer specifics of the alleged lie in its court filing. The city also contends that arbitrators were wrong in awarding retroactive pay.
Pittsburgh police charged Kramer following a complaint filed by Jesse Smith alleging that Kramer pulled up beside him on a Sheraden street 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 and that he did not own a silver revolver.
Sales records showed he bought stainless steel Smith & Wesson revolver in 2013. Kramer later turned the gun over to investigators, according to court documents.
A jury found Kramer not guilty of the charge and an attorney who previously represented Kramer accused a city detective of lying while on the stand.
Michael Zobrak, a neutral arbitrator on the panel, noted in the written ruling that the city failed to have detectives who investigated Kramer testify during the arbitration hearing. The defense, he wrote, had no chance to cross examine them. The panel ruled that that city failed to establish just cause for the firing.
“(Kramer) was not given the opportunity to examine the investigator as well as others involved with determining the facts at this hearing,” Zobrak wrote. “Even if (Kramer) initially denied owning the weapon, he mitigated his conduct by cooperating in obtaining the silver gun from his home.”
Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1, called the appeal outrageous. Swartzwelder, a member of the arbitration panel, said the union believes the city intentionally lost lost a critical video that could have helped clear Kramer.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .