Investigation opened after UC-Berkeley police officer seized money from food vendor during citation

September 14, 2017
Berkeley, CA

By Kelly McCarthy

A University of California at Berkeley bicycle police officer was seen taking money from a hot dog vendor's wallet while writing up a citation for selling without a license on Saturday.

In a cellphone video, the man at the hot dog cart appears to be confused by the interaction as the university police officer tells him he does not have the proper permit to sell food at that location.

The incident occurred at Piedmont Avenue and Bancroft Way, near Memorial Stadium at 5:32 p.m. just after a game between Cal and Weber State.

The vendor, Beto Matias, told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco, "I was in a state of shock when I saw he was taking my money."

Officer Sean Aranas told KGO that the cash was taken as evidence and that he was acting on orders from a supervisor to issue a citation.

According to the university, $60 in cash was seized and booked as evidence of the suspected proceeds and violation.

The university confirmed that officers are asked to focus on nonpermitted vending at campus events.

Three other sellers were detained for vending without a license near the game that day, according to the university. Those vendors were released with a warning.

A UC-Berkeley vice chancellor instructed the school system's police department to open a complaint investigation to assess any procedural and management issues related to the incident.

The university issued a statement on Monday in response to the incident, saying the well-being of community members, including "marginalized communities of color," is most important and that it remains "deeply committed to building a climate of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, even as we enforce laws and policies."

"This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses and even human trafficking," Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said in the statement. "In addition, while I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular case, our practice is to issue warnings before giving a citation. In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence."