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June 6, 2003


Mobile Residents for Civil Rights: SFPD Officer Retaliates Against Mobile Residents

In the small hours of this morning, SFPD officer Paul Swiatko, Star No. 82, retaliated against a homeless women living in a vehicle in the Bayview District. Officer Swiatko arrested and attempted to intimidate a mobile resident, who has become known in the community as an activist working with Mobile Residents for Civil Rights, and has a pending complaint against him.

At 3:30 AM, she was inside her van when Swiatko and two other officers approached. The officers ordered her out of the vehicle. One of the officers acting with Swiatko pushed her against the vehicle. The officers took her to Bayview Station in her pajamas, without shoes or a coat or eyeglasses.

Swiatko berated her about her activist associations, asking if she was going to call the Coalition on Homelessness. He then made threats toward Coalition staff and boasted that although he had been the subject of many complaints, "you all can't do nothing to me" (sic), and that officials "don't care" about the complaints.

Swiatko claimed his visit was in response to a complaint by a neighbor. The site of her arrest was an industrial area; there had been no disturbance in the area. The woman arrested had helped to pick up garbage in the area, so it was not littered. Other occupants of vehicles in the area were not arrested.

The homeless woman was eventually cited and released under Sec. 97 of the San Francisco Municipal Police Code, a statute that prohibits habitation of certain vehicles under certain circumstances. This statute is normally enforced through a citation issued at the scene, and the District Attorney to date has not prosecuted this offense.

She was let go from Bayview Station in the dark hours of the morning, barefoot, in pajamas. She said, "I could be raped." Swiatko replied, "That's none of my business." She returned to her vehicle to find its doors had been left open.

The Coalition on Homelessness plans to make an OCC complaint, but as Officer Swiatko boasts, there have been many OCC complaints against him and yet to date he is still being permitted to act with impunity under color of the SFPD's law enforcement authority.

The Coalition expects that this incident will be investigated as retaliation for the exercise of constitutionally protected civil rights.