From [HERE] A white St. Paul police officer indicted by a federal grand jury for using excessive force against a man while apprehending him in 2016 pleaded not guilty in federal court in Minneapolis Thursday.
Officer Brett Palkowitsch kicked Frank Baker, then 52, as a police dog bit into Baker’s leg. Baker filed a federal lawsuit against St. Paul and the city agreed to a historic $2 million settlement in 2017.
Palkowitsch, 31, is charged with one count of deprivation of rights — a federal civil rights violation.
The indictment alleges Palkowitsch “used unreasonable force when he kicked” Baker repeatedly when he “was on the ground and in the grips of a police canine, resulting in bodily injury,” according to a statement from the FBI’s Minneapolis field office.
Officer Brett Palkowitsch said little during the hearing other than to acknowledge to the judge he understand the nature of the allegations against him and that he will cooperate with the terms of his release while his case is pending.
Those terms include surrendering his passport, firearm, and agreeing to limit his travel to within Minnesota and Wisconsin unless approved by probation, the judge said.
He also was ordered to have no contact with the man he’s accused of using excessive force against as well as eight other officers who responded to the scene and may be called as witnesses.
His attorney, Deborah Ellis, pushed back when the U.S. attorney’s office tried to include a ninth officer on the list who is a good friend of Palkowitsch’s.
Ellis told the judge that while she could understand prohibiting her client’s discussion of the case with the officer, limiting his contact with a good friend in entirety seemed “overly broad and unnecessary.”
Federal prosecutor, Christopher Perras, said his office made the request because it discovered during its investigation into the case that Palkowitsch made several attempts to reach out to at least one fellow officer who had been at the scene of the incident in what seemed like an attempt to “get (their stories) straight.”
The federal government wanted to take measures to make sure that didn’t happen with any other potential witnesses, including Palkowitsch’s friend and colleague, Perras said.
Menendez ended up allowing Palkowitsch to have contact with the officer in question so long as there was no discussion of the case.
The federal indictment stems from Palkowitsch’s conduct toward Frank Baker in June of 2016.
St. Paul officers responded to an anonymous report of a man with a gun, described as black and having dreadlocks. The person with the gun was described as a black man with dreadlocks who had been wearing a white T-shirt, according to the settlement agreement. That is the cops had no other corroborating details, such the suspect's height, weight, build, complexion, hair length, facial hair, age or what color jacket, shirt, pants or whether the suspect had a hat on, a hoodie etc. He was black and that was good enough to these white public rulers despite so-called 4th Amendment rights [In order for the police to stop you the Supreme Court has ruled that police must have reasonable articulable suspicion that there is criminal activity afoot and that you are involved in the activity. Police may not act on on the basis of an inchoate or unclear and unparticularized suspicion or a hunch - there must be some specific articulable facts along with reasonable inferences from those facts to justify the intrusion]. [MORE]
Baker, returning to his East Side apartment at the time, fit this limitless general description because he is Black and had dreadlocks but was unarmed and was not the suspect.
A police K-9 held Baker’s leg for 70 seconds and Palkowitsch kicked him three times in the ribs, police have said. Baker was hospitalized for two weeks with seven fractured ribs and both his lungs collapsed.
Palkowitsch wrote in a police report at the time that he kicked Baker because he believed the man was armed and wasn’t complying with officers’ orders. There appear to be no articulable facts to support his belief that Baker was armed.
Police say no gun was found on the man or in the surrounding scene.
“The decisions and conclusions you made are troubling,” Chief Todd Axtell wrote in the settlement agreement. “You responded to anonymous information about a fight and man with a gun. No witness ever identified this citizen or his vehicle as being involved to you or any other officer and he was three apartment buildings away from the original call location.”
“According to your report and statement, the citizen was never seen with a gun nor did he display any aggression toward you,” Axtell continued in the report. “The entire interaction from when you gave the first verbal command until releasing your K-9 partner was less than 20 seconds.”
Axtell said Ficcadenti’s tactical decisions weren’t consistent with his police training nor his specialty K-9 training. He also said Ficcadenti’s decision to release the K-9 and run toward the citizen with his firearm in his holster was “reckless at best” and created a hazard for Ficcadenti and the assisting officers. [MORE]
Ficcadenti was suspended for 30 days even though a civilian review commission recommended 10 days. He will also not return to the K-9 unit.
St. Paul police chief fired him after the incident, but Palkowitsch appealed the termination and his employment with the police department was reinstated.
The 2016 encounter with Baker happened the day after Todd Axtell became St. Paul’s police chief. He was placed on paid administrative leave from the force after he being indicted.
Axtell, who apologized to Baker, fired Palkowitsch in 2016. The officer appealed the decision.
In October 2016, the St. Paul Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission decided that Palkowitsch and K-9 Officer Brian Ficcadenti’s “use of force were both excessive and improper.” The commission recommended a 10-day suspension for Ficcadenti and a 30-day suspension for Palkowitsch.
In a departure from that recommendation, Axtell decided to suspend Ficcadenti for 30 days and to terminate Palkowitsch.
But in 2017, a state arbitrator ruled that Palkowitsch should get his job back. He received a 30-day suspension for excessive force and improper procedure.
Palkowitsch returned to work as a St. Paul officer and was most recently a Western District patrol officer. He has been a St. Paul officer since 2013.
The next hearing in his case is scheduled to take place March 14.