ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Civil rights leaders Friday called for two St. Paul officers to be fired, after the department released dash cam video of a man being taken down and bitten by a police dog and then kicked three times by an officer after he was down.
"For almost 60 seconds that dog chewed on a human, and you hear the officer saying 'Good boy!' as you’re doing your job as a dog against a human," Tyrone Terrell of the African American Leadership Council told reporters, during a press conference.
"They both should be terminated. They both have no place in St. Paul as police officers!"
An hour earlier St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released the video of the June 25 arrest of Frank Baker on the city's east side. Officers were in the area after a report of a large fight, and were told one of the combatants may have a gun.
Officer Brian Ficcadenti ordered Falco, his K9 officer, to attack Baker just ten seconds after confronting him in the parking lot of his apartment complex. As Baker screamed and struggled to get free from the dog's grip, other officers arrived to assist Ficcadenti.
In the dash cam video officers can be heard screaming and cursing at Baker, telling him to stop moving and put his hands out. Officer Brett Palkowitsch can be seen kicking Baker three times while he's on the ground, still in the grip of the dog and surrounded by other officers.
"Why don’t you engage in a conversation? But, no, you send an animal to attack because you don’t value that person," Jeff Martin, the president of the St. Paul Chapter of the NAACP, remarked.
"So it’s when you’re looking at a certain segment of your population as people without value, that things like this happen."
Martin said he was also disturbed by the sight of other officers who stood and watched as the dog delivered devastating injuries to Baker's leg, wounds that would require a long hospital stay and several surgeries to salvage some of the muscles in his right calf.
"An animal is biting his leg off, and you tell him to put his hands behind his back or don’t move, which makes about as much sense as telling him to jump up and fly away."
After the officers cuffed Baker, they discovered her was not armed. He was arrested for obstructing the legal process -- a charge later dropped -- and taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital.
Chief Axtell announced Friday that Officer Ficcadenti received a 30-day suspension, and has been transferred to another unit. Officer Palkowitsch went on unpaid leave Thursday, and is the subject of an open internal affairs investigation.
Axtell also said he had visited Baker while he was in the hospital, and again on Friday to apologize to him. When asked why he would apologize, Axtell replied, "Because he's a human being, and I'm a human being."
The ministers and community activists who gathered Friday to address the media said they're glad that Axtell released the video, but they urged him to work on changing the culture in the rank and file.
"What about the good officers that patrol our communities, the ones that actually serve and make sure we are protected?" Rev. Charles Gill of the St Paul Black Ministerial Alliance said, "They get tainted by this."
The leaders also pointed out the City of St. Paul will most likely reach a cash settlement with Baker, and the local taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.
Union defends officers
The St. Paul Police Federation, the officers union, stood behind Officers Ficcadenti and Palkowitsch Friday.
"The two principle officers involved in the video have extremely good reputations, morals, and work history," Officer Dave Titus, the president of the union, told reporters. "They work in good faith every day, they are family men."
The union's attorney said that Baker's injuries were regrettable, but said Baker could've prevented the dog attack if he had complied with Officer Ficcadenti's orders to show both of his hands.
"Those injuries would not have occurred if he had not made the decision that so many seem to be making lately, specifically that following police directions is for some reason optional," Christopher Wachtler, the Police Federation attorney, asserted.
Titus said it's impossible to form a fair judgment of the officers without knowing the broader context, that Baker's neighborhood has been plagued by violence and a large volume of calls for service.
"The amount of gun play on the East Side is very high, very dangerous and very real for cops," Titus said.
"This is a call where the gentleman matched the description of a man with gun, a white tee shirt and dreadlocks."
Baker's attorney, Bob Bennett, said that the arrest of Baker violated his constitutional rights because the officers had no legitimate reason to question him in the first place, let alone resort to a canine attack.