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