By Maria Decoteau
Romir Talley’s mother, LaTasha Talley, along with community activists confronted the Penn Hills Council on Monday and denounced that Officer Robert Gowans, who murdered 24-year-old Romir in December of 2019, is currently working for the Penn Hills Police Department.
Gowans left his position as a Wilkinsburg police officer after the killing and moved to the police department in nearby municipality of Penn Hills. Despite being fired from the Penn Hills position due to community outrage in May 2021, Gowans was later rehired after the police union claimed that Gowans was illegally terminated.
Before Talley’s mother spoke, the council took a vote on whether to permit her to since she is not a resident of Penn Hills. After the performative vote, Talley took the podium to forcefully denounce Penn Hill Council’s negligence with hiring Gowans.
“If y’all were any type of [legitimate] department, I would have thought that y’all would have at least did your homework – at least find out what exactly transpired that night [of Romir Talley’s murder] instead of hiring this man. . . He is a thug. He is a cold-blooded killer,” stated Talley.
Talley directly addressed the journalists from monopoly media outlets in the room and criticized the way they have chosen to portray Romir as an aggressor towards Gowans. Talley disputed the reports that her son shot Gowans, citing the fact that a gun the police attributed to Talley was found over 46 feet away from her son’s body and was “mysteriously found hours after the investigation.”
Justice for Jim Rogers, a group formed to protest the police murder of another Black man in the Pittsburgh area, stood by Talley with a banner reading “People’s Justice for Romir Talley,” and pushed a demand for Gowans to be fired permanently. The city council, however, has shirked any capability it has to facilitate or enact Gowans’ exit. Councilwoman Catherine Sapp and Mayor Pauline Calabrese were unable to reach a consensus at the meeting as to whether or not the council has authority in hiring and firing police officers.
“We (the council) consent on the heads of departments and directors. We have nothing to do with the hiring and firing of officers. That is bargained for, that’s union – we are specifically prohibited from getting involved in any hiring and firing whatsoever,” stated Mayor Calabrese.
Calabrese’s avoiding any responsibility to hold the police department accountable is consistent with her reaction to Romir Talley’s mother and the activists present at the meeting. The Mayor had activists, including the two holding a banner, escorted out by security after an organizer with Justice for Jim Rogers continued to speak out, refusing to allow the topic of Romir’s death and Gowans’ position on the police force to be dropped.
Despite the council’s cowardice and unwillingness to prevent a known murderer from policing Penn Hills’ citizens, Talley made it clear in her speech to council that she will not give up fighting until there is justice for Romir’s death: “Now I couldn’t protect my son that night, but I will try my damndest to protect these kids out in Penn Hills. I will not sit back and watch what that man did to my son happen to another mother out here.”
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