Officer who kicked man during arrest should get his job back, arbitrator rules

The city settled with the man who was kicked for $2 million.
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An arbitrator says an officer fired for kicking a man during an arrest in June should get his job back.

Officer Brett Palkowitsch was fired from the St. Paul Police Department after he was seen on video kicking Frank Baker three times in the chest on June 24, 2016.

Baker – who matched a description of an armed suspect but wasn't the suspect – was on the ground being bitten by a K-9 officer at the direction of the dog's handler Brian Ficcadenti when Palkowitsch kicked him.

Baker had to be hospitalized for two weeks. He was treated for dog bites, broken ribs and two partially collapsed lungs.

The incident resulted in a $2 million settlement to Baker – the largest in the city's history – which the St. Paul City Council unanimously approved Wednesday afternoon.

A review of the officer's actions

After the incident, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell called for a review of the officers' actions.

The commission that reviewed Baker's arrest found the officers' use of force was "excessive and improper." The commission recommended Ficcadenti be suspended for 10 days and Palkowitsch be suspended for 30, according to the arbitrator's ruling, which was published by KSTP.

But Chief Axtell chose to suspend Ficcadenti for 30 days and fire Palkowitsch for violating the department's use-of-force policies, the ruling says.

Palkowitsch appealed that decision, and this week an arbitrator ruled he shouldn't have been fired. Instead, the arbitrator said Palkowitsch should receive a 30-day suspension without pay – the same punishment that was handed down to Ficcadenti, KSTP reports.

In a statement Wednesday, Axtell said, in part, this incident has been difficult for the department, adding he's "disappointed that an officer used excessive force, put his colleagues' safety in jeopardy and severely injured an innocent man. ... and I stand by my decision to hold everyone in our department to the highest possible standards."

Chris Wachtler, who's the attorney for the St. Paul Police Federation, said in a statement to the Pioneer Press Palkowitsch “looks forward to returning to proactively serving the citizens of St. Paul, and helping keep our streets safe.”

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