St. Paul Chief Explains Discipline After Police Dog Case

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The German Shepherd’s bite force at 238 pounds is among the most powerful in the canine kingdom. Imagine the weight, power and pressure of that force clamping down on your leg for 70 seconds. Throw in fangs puncturing and tearing at your flesh as you writhe on the ground in pain. Add six men in uniform standing in a circle around you, two of whom are barking commands at you, while one of them kicks you three times with such force that he breaks your ribs and likely causes a collapsed lung. That’s what happened to Frank Arnal Baker on June 24 after cops mistook the 53-year-old man for a gun-toting suspect involved in a brawl at an apartment complex, says Ruben Rosario of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell visited Baker in a hospital after the incident. The squad car dash-cam video stirred memories of the infamous Rodney King incident as well as those disturbing black-and-white 1960s civil rights TV images of black marchers in the deep South attacked and bitten by police dogs. Axtell, a 28-year police veteran, has apologized to Baker after announcing that Brian Ficcadenti, the five-year police veteran involved in the incident, had been suspended without pay for a month and would be reassigned. Axtell had decided to fire him, but reconsidered after meeting with the officer, who has a good reputation and comes from a family of cops.  The police union president, David Titus, and the union’s attorney, Chris Wachtler, defended both cops, citing the gun call and the chaotic events that evening. Axtell says, “One of the things that a chief today has to do when you are deciding on discipline is that the chief needs to know without a doubt that the employee has the capacity and the understanding and introspective ability to learn from their mistake.”


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