Convicted of violating the civil rights of an innocent, unarmed man, a former Minnesota police officer was recently sentenced to six years in federal prison. The cop was recorded on police dash cam video allowing a K-9 to maul the man before breaking seven of his ribs, causing both of his lungs to collapse.
In June 2016, St. Paul Police Officer Brett Palkowitsch and his colleagues responded to a 911 call alleging that an unidentified black male with dreadlocks and a white t-shirt had been involved in a street fight and was carrying a gun. Returning home from work and with no connection to the incident, Frank Baker, then-52 years old, was talking on his cellphone when the officers ordered him out of the vehicle with his hands in the air.
According to police dash cam video, Baker stood in the parking lot when Officer Palkowitsch suddenly ordered a K-9 to attack Baker. As Baker screamed in pain from the dog repeatedly biting his leg, Palkowitsch kicked Baker in the ribs three times.
Palkowitsch broke seven of Baker’s ribs and caused both of his lungs to collapse, putting him in critical condition. Officers found no gun at the scene and no evidence that Baker, a 52-year-old grandfather who lived in the neighborhood, had been involved in any fight.
In 2017, the city agreed to award Baker with a $2 million settlement. In January 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Palkowitsch for use of excessive force against Baker.
During the trial, other officers at the scene, including officers Anthony Spencer, Joseph Dick, and Brian Ficcadenti, testified that they did not consider Baker to be a threat. They also testified that Palkowitsch bragged about kicking Baker following the incident and that they saw no legitimate reason for kicking Baker.
In November 2019, Palkowitsch was found guilty of violating Baker’s civil rights by use of excessive force against him. On Friday, District Judge Wilhelmina Wright of the District of Minnesota sentenced Palkowitsch to six years in federal prison.
“Instead of lawfully carrying out his critical public safety responsibilities, Palkowitsch abused his authority by using excessive force,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Pamela Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a press release. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute officers who engage in criminal misconduct.”
“Law enforcement officers take an oath to serve and protect the public,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Minneapolis Field Office. “When an officer betrays that oath and violates a person’s civil rights, that officer must be held accountable. Our community, and our profession, deserve no less.”
Judge Wright ordered Palkowitsch to report to federal prison on June 21.