ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A St. Paul police officer fired for using excessive force during an arrest is getting his job back.
That announcement comes the same day St. Paul’s City Council approves a $2 million settlement for the man at the center of that arrest.
Police released squad car video from the scene the night Officer Brett Palkowitsch was seen kicking Frank Baker Jr., after a K-9 officer had him subdued. Palkowitsch was fired and the K-9 officer suspended for 30 days.
The video showed officers arriving in St. Paul on reports of a man with a gun. It shows a K-9 officer taking down Frank Baker and officer Brett Palkowitsch kicking the man while he was down. Investigators later determined Baker was an innocent bystander.
“This officer arrives on the scene and is presented with what he is presented with,” said Chris Wachtler.
St. Paul Police Federation attorney Chris Wachtler says Officer Palkowitsch reacted properly to what he was told about the situation.
“The canine has been deployed on a suspect that matches the description of the suspect who is supposed to have the firearm so as far as this officer is concerned and has to be concerned this is the person and this person has a gun,” Wachtler said.
Wackler says the arbitrator believed this incident caught on tape could have been avoided.
“As we have said from the beginning and as the arbitrator has now agreed if he would have just complied none of this would have happened, “ Wachtler said.
The arbitrator said Palkowitsch faced a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situation with an uncooperative individual.
Court documents say Baker had a cocktail of narcotics in his system that may have played a role in his decision to not comply to the demands of officers to leave the car with his hands in the air.
“No one wanted to see Mr. Baker hurt in this situation no one is happy at the fact that he is injured he got broken ribs and injuries to his leg from the dog, “Wachtler said.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a statement: “While I respect the process, I remain disappointed that an officer used excessive force, put his colleagues’ safety in jeopardy and severely injured an innocent man. … I stand by my decision to hold everyone in our department to the highest possible standards.”
St. Paul’s Police Federation says this decision is the second in three years overturning a Police Chief’s decision to terminate an officer.
The arbitrator says Palkowitsch’s termination should be reduced to 30 day suspension without pay. Chief Axtell says the department will move on knowing that one incident does not define the St. Paul Police Department or its officers.
Officer Palkowitsch is expected back in uniform soon.