UC Berkeley investigating campus police conduct in viral food vendor incident

Martin Flores/Facebook/Courtesy

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Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy released a statement Monday afternoon stating that the campus is reviewing an incident in which UCPD officer Sean Aranas wrote a citation to a food vendor outside the Cal football game Saturday.

“We have instructed our officers to monitor illegal vending outside our event venues,” Biddy said in his statement. “This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses, and even human trafficking.”

According to UCPD Sgt. Sabrina Reich, Aranas issued the citation for vending without a license and UCPD also detained three other individuals for vending without a license, who were all released later that day with a warning.

A petition was created Saturday for the removal of Aranas, receiving over 21,000 signatures, and a GoFundMe page has raised over $44,500 in support of the food vendor. The petition expressed concern over Aranas’ approach to the situation, specifically why Aranas approached the vendor and why he took money out of the vendor’s wallet.

Aranas confiscated $60 from the food vendor as evidence of “suspected proceeds of the violation,” according to Reich. Biddy said in his statement that it is typical for a UCPD officer to collect any suspected illegal funds to enter them into evidence.

Aranas will continue to work for the department, while UCPD has opened up a complaint investigation to examine both procedural and management issue for the incident.

Criticism of Aranas’ tactics surfaced from the community after Saturday’s incident. Specifically, campus alumnus Martin Flores who witnessed the incident and started the GoFundMe page said he believed Aranas “selectively identified” the vendor.

I assure you that the well-being of our community members including those from our marginalized communities of color, is most important to us,” Biddy said in his statement. “We are deeply committed to building a climate of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, even as we enforce laws and policies.”

Malini Ramaiyer is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.