In defense of the San Francisco Police Department, it is only a few Police Officers who have been overly zealous, combative and punitive, in their enforcement of the quality of life laws. It is our belief, though, that one officer abusing his or her position of power is one too many.
It has been reported to the Civil Rights Department, and documented in interviews, that one Police Officer in particular, has been especially verbally and physically abusive in her use of excessive force, created great hardship, and at times been downright mean in her interactions with homeless and poor people.
Specific examples related to Civil Rights Outreach staff, documenting the behavior of Officer Sue Lavin include:
- On Sep. 22, 2005, while doing StreetWatch in Graffiti Park, in the Bayview District, it was related to Civil Rights Department staff, in a video interview, that Officer Lavin had towed his van. Prior to this she had been repeatedly coming to a particular individual’s van, banging on the side with a flashlight at 5:00am and jumping up and down on his bumper to harass him.
- He has filed a complaint against her. At a later hearing, on it was determined by a Hearing Officer that the van had been taken illegally, and was returned to him. At this time Officer Lavin said that she was “Going to get him”. His van has again been towed since then, and not yet returned to him.
- On 22Sep05, also in Graffiti Park, another individual informed us of his experience with Officer Lavin. He had, on 04Aug05, been watching his friend’s belongings while his friend was in court. Officer Lavin told him that she had warned him the night before to leave the area, and that if he didn’t leave immediately she would arrest him. She told him that he could take nothing with him as he prepared to depart. He walked away, but realizing that he’d forgotten his medications, he returned to get them. Officer Lavin then placed him in handcuffs. When placing him in the police car she hit him on the top of the head with a metal folder she was carrying, causing a wound to his head. We videotaped his statement, filled out an OCC form, took pictures of the wound, and told him that we would get back to him after we’d filed the complaint on his behalf.
- On 28 Sep 05, interviews with several people at 24th & Illinois streets and Toland & McKinnon streets revealed that Officer Lavin, in addition to writing copious amounts of tickets has been telling selected people to “Get out of MY city”.
Officer Lavin’s statements, her actions, and general demeanor are intolerable in a city such as San Francisco, which places great value on individuality, fairness, and equal treatment of all its citizens. She must be stopped, taken off of our city streets, and retrained in sensitivity. We of the Civil Rights Outreach Department of the Coalition on Homelessness are dedicated to stopping these abuses of the civil rights of all people.