UCPD closes 8-month internal investigation of hot dog vendor incident

Martin Flores/Facebook/Courtesy

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After eight months, an internal UCPD investigation into an incident involving Officer Sean Aranas — who received backlash after ticketing and confiscating money from a hot dog vendor last fall — concluded that Aranas “acted within his authority” during the controversial incident.

On Sept. 9, 2017, Beto was selling hot dogs outside California Memorial Stadium during a football game when Aranas cited him and confiscated the money he earned from selling his hot dogs. The incident went viral after campus alumnus Martin Flores recorded Aranas and shared the video on Facebook.

Aranas received backlash from the community, and a petition to remove him went viral, receiving more than 21,000 signatures in September 2017. A GoFundMe campaign was also created in support of Beto, and he received a check of $87,921 later that month.

UCPD began an internal investigation of the incident Sept. 13, 2017. During the investigation, Officer Aranas remained on assignment in patrol duties.

“In this sort of situation, we will remove an employee from routine duties only if there is a concern for public safety or a likelihood that continued assignment would impact the investigation,” said UCPD Chief Margo Bennett in an emailed statement.

The investigation concluded in May 2018 and was finalized in July, finding that Aranas “acted within his authority” when he cited Beto. Aranas is still employed by UCPD.

Bennett said in an interview with The Daily Californian editorial board that the enforcement of vending laws was important for protecting UCPD’s brand, trademark and community “when it comes to health issues.”

She added, however, that UCPD has changed the model it uses to enforce health and safety codes. According to Bennett, UCPD has issued training bulletins to give a warning and then enforce these codes.

Bennett told the Daily Cal’s editorial board that Aranas confiscated Beto’s money for evidence, but Bennett said UCPD will now photograph funds instead in similar situations.

In a previous interview with the Daily Cal that was conducted in Spanish, Beto said he was unaware at the time of the incident why his money was taken. He added that he was never given a receipt showing how much money Aranas took from him.

“I felt like a criminal. The little money that I made for my family, he took it away from me and made me feel like a criminal,” Beto previously told the Daily Cal.

Bennett said in her emailed statement that there were several vendors on campus Sept. 9, 2017, and that all were told to leave, including Beto. According to Bennett, Beto complied with Aranas’ request but later returned to campus, at which point Aranas cited him.

“We want to emphasize and reiterate that we regret the way this situation unfolded,” Bennett said in her emailed statement. “UCPD also fully endorses the statement provided by the Vice Chancellor in the wake of this incident: The well-being of our community members, including those from our marginalized communities of color, is most important to us, and we are deeply committed to building a climate of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, even as we enforce laws and policies.”

Jessíca Jiménez is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.