A former St. Paul police officer who assaulted a Black grandfather and allowed a service dog to also maul him during a 2016 arrest was on Friday sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of using excessive force. Colleagues of former officer Brett Palkowitsch took the stand to testify against him during his 2019 trial.
According to MPR News, the brutal incident Palkowitsch has been convicted for, left the victim, Frank Baker, with several broken ribs as well as collapsed lungs. During the arrest, Palkowitsch, who had responded to a 911 report of a fight and robbery, allegedly kicked Baker and set the police dog on him. Baker was perceived to be a suspect but it later turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
During the sentencing hearing, a reportedly tearful Palkowitsch rendered an apology to Baker and his former colleagues. “I hope that today gives you a little bit of closure, but I know for the rest of your life it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. For the rest of my life, it’s something that I’m going to have to live with as well. But from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” he told the victim.
But though Baker said he has forgiven him, he cast doubts over Palkowitsch’s apology, saying it wasn’t genuine. “His family and friends, his mother, his wife, his kids, got to see that he has a dark side to him. He made my life a living hell,” Baker said.
The 2016 incident occurred when Baker had arrived home and was making a phone call in his car. While in his vehicle, he was confronted by officers who established he fit the description of a Black suspect a dispatcher had told them was allegedly involved in a fight. During his arrest, Baker said he obeyed orders from the officers but that did not help his case, MPR News reported.
“When the officer said ‘get out of the car and put your hands up,’ I put my hands up,” Baker recollected. “I didn’t even have time to take two steps. He let the dog out. I’m looking like it’s in slow motion. No you didn’t!”
In the aftermath of the incident, Palkowitsch was terminated from the force and the city reached a $2 million settlement with Baker. Palkowitsch was later reinstated after the St. Paul Police Federation appealed his dismissal. He was, however, fired once again after he was found guilty in 2019. Though his prison sentence was expected to be between four and five years after striking an agreement with prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright dismissed it. Per the agreement, Palkowitsch wouldn’t have been able to appeal his conviction. But the judge handing him a longer sentence means he can now appeal. And his lawyer told the news outlet they’ll pursue that.
“You get more good policemen than bad policemen”
Though Baker is still reeling from the effects of the attack, he said he harbors no ill will towards law enforcement officers and he even wanted to become a detective during his teenage years. “One thing I want people to know is that I love the law. I really do. You get more good policemen than bad policemen,” he said.