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March 14, 2003


Police Officer Shoots Dog and Harasses Mobile Residents

By Sharon Edwards (pitwit7@yahoo.com)
Mobile Residents for Civil Rights

March 13, 2003. San Francisco - A dog was shot and injured this morning in the Bayview District by a police officer who is notorious for aggressive behavior.

According to witnesses, police officer Paul Swiatko, working alone between 8 and 9 a.m., behaved aggressively to a series of homeless people in campsites and vehicles along Iowa Street. He woke people roughly, threatening to write consecutive citations in a manner that would result in their arrest if they did not pack up and leave the area at once. He pulled the covers off a woman in bed ­ for the second time this week ­ placed his foot on the chest of a sleeping man, pulled tarps off of makeshift structures, in at least one case pulled a tent apart, and arrested one man on a minor outstanding warrant.

After disrupting several campsites in this manner, he pounded on the exterior of a parked RV, then opened the door to the vehicle. He dragged a woman out naked. Three dogs came out behind her. One dog jumped up on the officer. He shot the dog in the head. Calling for backup, he and the officer who arrived in response to his call arrested the woman at gunpoint. Animal Care and Control impounded the two uninjured dogs at the scene, and later recovered the injured dog as well. An officer at Animal Control reported the dog was in "stable" condition as of this afternoon.

Officer Swiatko is well known in the Bayview District for his aggressive treatment of homeless people. This incident, while especially dramatic, was not inconsistent with his previous behavior and the behavior of other officers who engage in the aggressive enforcement of state and local parking, traffic, "vehicle habitation," and "lodging in public" codes against homeless people.

Vehicularly housed residents are subjected to abusive raids on a nearly daily basis. It is not uncommon for police to wake people up in the small hours of the morning by shouting, pounding with nightsticks on the sides of their vehicles, and shining lights in their faces. Vehicles are towed on minor pretexts, sometimes under incorrect interpretations of the law.

Incidents of this type are of particular concern in light of the ACLU’s recent report noting that police officers are not held sufficiently accountable for violations of civil rights. We urge SFPD and other responsible authorities to conduct a full and fair investigation into this matter.