Cop Cleans Out Wallet Of Unlicensed Hot Dog Vendor Just Because He Can

from the small-ball dept

No job too small. That’s asset forfeiture for you. But small jobs are the safest jobs when it comes to the government keeping someone else’s property. Keeping the seizures small makes it less likely they’ll be challenged by those whose property was taken.

The year-end totals may look impressive, but behind those totals are lots and lots of tiny cash grabs. In the cases where agencies’ forfeitures have been itemized and examined (which is a rarity — there’s a ton of opacity in forfeiture reporting), the largest number of forfeitures are for the smallest amounts, usually well under $1,000.

Officers take what they can because they can. A video going viral on Twitter shows a California police officer rummaging through the wallet of an unlicensed street vendor and taking the vendor’s cash and debit card. A citation and a shutdown of the hot dog stand should have been enough. But it wasn’t. Officer Sean Aranas decided — with the only citation handed out during the football game — to take the man’s earnings.

The backlash has been swift. A crowdfunding page for the vendor — identified only as “Juan” — has already raised more than $30,000. A petition demanding the firing of Officer Aranas has gathered 11,000 signatures. And it’s gotten the attention of his employer:

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof offered a brief statement Sunday evening: “We are aware of the incident. The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus. UCPD is looking into the matter.”

The UCPD says the money taken from the vendor has been booked into evidence. If so, it’s just another way the PD can keep Juan’s money, even after he’s paid his fine and obtained a permit. This can happen even if the citation is dropped. Money booked into evidence just stays there unless someone’s willing to fight uphill against a system designed to keep citizens from their seized property. It’s not quite as difficult or expensive as fighting a forfeiture in court, but it’s still an arduous process involving a lot of people (cops, prosecutors) with zero interest in returning people’s property.

There will be a number of people pointing out Juan should have just secured a permit. True, that would have prevented this from happening, but it’s a bit like saying cops are justified in taking cash from anyone at any time if a law has been violated. Juan’s violation is a misdemeanor. It’s like saying a cop should be able to take cash/debit cards from people who’ve been cited for traffic violations. It’s unnecessarily punitive and far more of a punishment than a misdemeanor should warrant.

The outrage won’t budge the needle at the University of California Police Department. Everything done here likely has a corresponding policy allowing it. Calling it “evidence” rather than a forfeiture may make it feel a bit more legit, but it’s still just policy-enabled theft that allows the government to stack punishment on top of punishment and possibly enrich itself in the process.

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Comments on “Cop Cleans Out Wallet Of Unlicensed Hot Dog Vendor Just Because He Can”

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86 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Cop Rule Booklet

…well, just where is the ‘rule booklet’ that says what cops can & cannot do ?

Bet you can’t find anything in your home community government information stating what your local cops can & cannot do.

So where exactly is it written that cops can’t do asset-forfeiture at their discretion ?

Bottom line is that cops generally operate with very broad personal discretion… and have negatively evolved into being armed government officials with some de facto judicial powers over the populace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cop Rule Booklet

“So where exactly is it written that cops can’t do asset-forfeiture at their discretion ?”

4th and 5th amendments.

yes, we already through you were ignorant… next time shut up to avoid proving it!

“Bottom line is that cops generally operate with very broad personal discretion… and have negatively evolved into being armed government officials with some de facto judicial powers over the populace.”

Agree, because of people like you, that think they know far more than they actually do, followed up shortly by the lazy and apathetic that think…

because it is not happening to me, I got no skin in this game

Well, you do.

aerinai says:

So much for 'Community Policing'

Just like so many things, just because something is legal, doesn’t mean you should. This is an optics problem that the UCD Police Department should consider changing if they want to have the goodwill and support of the public.

I get upset at how these LEO die-hards bemoan the loss of respect that officers are shown. They see every cop as the Sheriff of Mayberry, but for some reason I don’t ever recall him pulling a stunt like this…

Side Note: I have friends that are cops and I respect how difficult their job is. It is asshats cops like this that make their job harder on a daily basis and put them in more danger… Pick your battles UCD… this isn’t the cross you want to die on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So much for 'Community Policing'

If all the good cops want the public to recognize them as such and to have the public’s faith restored, then all those supposed good cops out there need to become the most adamant about calling out this bullshit, not defending terrible cops, and actually reporting on and arresting bad cops for their illegal behaviors.

Until cops face the same punishments when they break the same laws, then we do not have justice.

Paul Cantrell (profile) says:

Re: Re: So much for 'Community Policing'

>> Until cops face the same punishments when they break the same laws, then we do not have justice.

I’ve always thought that police, prosecutors, and judges should all automatically get double the fine for any crime they commit, on the basis that it’s reasonable for us to expect better behavior from the people we entrust to enforce the laws.

Unfortunately, it’s exactly the opposite.

bshock says:

Rule of Law is dead in the U.S. It was dying for decades, but September 11, 2001 is certainly when it was clearly DOA. The fact that we inaugurated a president in clear violation of the Constitutional emoluments clause is just an SNL-like reminder that, like Francisco Franco, Rule of Law is still dead. It’s just become a subject of dark humor.

What we see in this video is that the primary difference between street gangs, organized crime, and the police department is that the police department is better organized and better funded.

Please remember that the death of Rule of Law doesn’t mean you can ignore the Gang in Blue. Show them the same fear and respect you would show any sociopath who has proven he is willing to rob or murder you as a matter of convenience.

Michael (profile) says:

“The UCPD says the money taken from the vendor has been booked into evidence”

Just what are cash and a bank card evidence of, employment?

I think we should apply this evidence collection procedure to every policy officer in that department. Take the money and bank cards out of all of their officer’s wallets as evidence that they are operating unlicensed vending stands.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Cash Grab Questions

There will be a number of people pointing out Juan should have just secured a permit. True, that would have prevented this from happening,

Why would you think that having a permit would have prevented this. It might have reduced the time the officer spent analyzing his options (do I rob this guy or not?), but given other incidents of asset forfeiture (assets taken from people not even charged with a crime) it does not follow that having a permit would have prevented this.

The other question that comes to mind is: What is the money and debit card booked into evidence, evidence of?

simonides (profile) says:

Re: Re: Police protecting business

Outside an Atlanta Hawks game years ago, I tried to give away for free two extra comp tickets. A police officer (city police, not private security) stopped me and gently (I am white) told me that I would be breaking the law, and made me move on. He was obviously protecting corporate interests, not citizens’ interests. I wonder how many anti-big-government, pro free-market Republicans would approve of the officer’s actions without a second thought.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Maybe crowdfund to increase exposure instead

The $30,000 in crowdfunding for the vendor is impressive. But, I wonder if that sort of fundraising would be better spent maintaining an ongoing advertising and media presence for this issue. Billboards with a still of the cop grabbing the cash and a caption saying, "We pay police to clean up the streets, not to clean out vendors’ wallets" and social media links to the video with the message "If the ‘policy’ says this is okay, then the policy needs to change" and so on might actually prompt some change.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Maybe crowdfund to increase exposure instead

“If the ‘policy’ says this is okay, then the policy needs to change”

This is the issue with a whole lot of policing issues that we see reported. “The officer followed policy.” If a mass amount of people are horrified by a police officer following policy, the policies are wrong. The only people who aren’t horrified are police apologists, just-world fallacy subscribers, or just too numb from seeing this all too often.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Maybe crowdfund to increase exposure instead

“This is the issue with a whole lot of policing issues that we see reported.”

Nope, issue is with people not forcing politicians to confront the issues of police corruption, or corruption in government for that matter.

Case in point… the things Obama did while president were corrupt, but D’s like them while R’s hated them. Now that Trump is in office doing the same… roles have reversed.

The problem is the voters. When they finally get tired of the corruption, they know what to do about it.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, it seems clear that they stole the credit and debit cards to steal the guy’s bank account and possibly bill stuff in his name on his credit card (which is fraud and identity theft no matter who does it. Seizing the bank account under asset forfeiture might be legal, but there’s no way seizing the credit card account is).

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re:

….How is having legal tender "evidence" of a crime? Were they going to dust it for prints? Run a DNA trace?

They’re gonna scan the bills for mustard & relish residue so that they can prove the cash is proceeds from illegal vending of red-hot, delicious doggers.

(He took the debit card to help rake lines from some coke he saw in the evidence room earlier that morning.)

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’re way ahead of you. No speeding required.

[T]he Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.

It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.

Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.

(Thankfully they need some reason to suspect that crime. Like your car being too dirty, or too clean. You being too quiet, or too talkative. You wearing clothes that are too grungy, or too fashionable. Etc.)

The California police on the other hand will probably have to take the hot dog vendor’s card to the bank to empty it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They’re way ahead of you. No speeding required.
[T]he Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.
It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.
Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.
(Thankfully they need some reason to suspect that crime. Like your car being too dirty, or too clean. You being too quiet, or too talkative. You wearing clothes that are too grungy, or too fashionable. Etc.)
The California police on the other hand will probably have to take the hot dog vendor’s card to the bank to empty it.

Money in a government approved (and tracked) financial system should be off-limits to those thugs.

The fact that they have to effectively issue a charge to your card for everything you have to the payment processor, (or just steal the card), should be evidence enough that it’s not a part of any criminal act. That fact can be proved in court and the asset can be easily searched anyway with a search warrant served to the payment processor without any involvement of the suspect.

This is egregious overreach by the police and definitely an act of theft. The people in Oklahoma should reign in these idiots.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Three words:

Nope, Still illegal, just that everyone is stupid and ignorant enough to allow those 3 words you just uttered.

An Amendment to the Constitution is what is required to override constitutionally protected rights… but kudos on being a tool and ignoring that fact, like pretty much everyone else in the nation.

Which rights did you want to see destroyed first, because I assure you, you want to destroy rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Boiling over

Mark my words: This will soon boil over.

Bullshit.

Cops can take money from unlicensed hot dog vendors named ‘Juan’ and ain’t nobody gonna do nothing.

Brown cop messes around robbing a white woman named ‘Jessica’ — and you still ain’t gonna see mobs forming with ropes for that cop.

It’s not like it was half-a-century ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Boiling over

Yep, it is so common for citizens to allow corruption and tyranny that the Declaration of Independence specifically talks about it.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Not.You says:

Completely not suprised

A long time ago in another life I was a homeless drug addict. I used to stand on the off-ramp with a sign because it was safer than trying to get money through (more obvious) crime. But panhandling was still against the law, and cops would harass you for it. One time though, a Sargent no less, decided to take all of the money I had accumulated from a couple hours of panhandling. I think it was maybe $11 or so, almost all change. Not a lot, but almost half way to enough to score dope. I seriously doubt it ever saw the inside of any evidence locker. I wasn’t even ticketed, just told to go away. I’m not homeless, nor am I strung out on drugs, but I still think cops are just government sanctioned thugs because that has been my direct experience.

Personanongrata says:

Freedom is Just another Word for Being Robbed of your Property at Gun Point by a Police Officer

There will be a number of people pointing out Juan should have just secured a permit.

Like a well-conditioned slave asking masters permission.

How dare local/state/federal tax-feeders force a person to ask permission (ie permit) in order to provide for themselves and their families.

Get down on you knees and genuflect before the state so as you may work selling hot dogs (or whatever job it is that requires licensing/permitting).

Yes of course the permitting process is entirely for our safety (while in reality permitting/licensing is simply an alternate stream of revenue for the tax-feeders to squander on their various boondoggles).

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Freedom is Just another Word for Being Robbed of your Property at Gun Point by a Police Officer

I don’t know the law in this case, but food vendor permits tend to include an inspection and some knowledge of food safety. While it’s not good to poison your customers due to bad sanitation, it does happen, and the permit/inspection/sanitation knowledge is helpful in preventing that.

Some guy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Freedom is Just another Word for Being Robbed of your Property at Gun Point by a Police Officer

Did you ever think that if regulation stopped food poisoning, that regulated vendors wouldn’t be able to cause it? Or that if regulation doesn’t stop it, maybe it’s actually intended for a different purpose which it does fulfill?

Fencepost says:

Why the cards?

I don’t understand why they took the cards, are they thinking that he magically deposited cash into them while he was selling there?

Heck, he’s standing there with an Android phone so hopefully he’s got access to his bank account and can move money out. He should also immediately be calling the bank and reporting those cards stolen. Might even make sense if the cops would let him be on the phone while they were still there to call the bank while the cops are standing there and report the cards stolen.

“have you spoken with the police about the theft?” “yes, the cop that stole them is standing right in front of me.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

More fluff than a pillow factory

“We are aware of the incident. The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus. UCPD is looking into the matter.”

Let’s break this down shall we?

‘We are aware of the incident’.

Translation: ‘Now that lots of people know about it I suppose we can’t pretend that it didn’t happen.’

The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus.

Red herring. Whether or not he was tasked with that has nothing to do with checking someone’s wallet and grabbing the cash and cards, unless they want to argue that robbing someone is just part of the job.

UCPD is looking into the matter.”

Not ‘investigating’, not ‘this is a problem and we’re doing what we can to address it’, simply ‘looking into it’.

Notably lacking from that statement: Any condemnation of what took place and/or even a hint that some sort of punishment might be warranted.

One of their own got caught robbing someone on camera, and rather than issue a public statement condemning what went on, perhaps with an apology to the victim, they double down and insist that nothing wrong happened. That is the mindset that alienates the public and makes it so they’d be a fool to trust someone with a badge, because it demonstrates that they are concerned first and foremost with protecting their own, rather than the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Debit Card

“Confiscating” the debit card really? How does taking a person’s debit card in a situation like this actually make sense? This business as with other vendors is typically “CASH ONLY.” How could this cop take the debit card and not take something else more relevant to the crime, like the guys pants for holding all the cash.

wshuff (profile) says:

What the hell are they going to do with the debit card? They’ve booked it into evidence. There’s absolutely no legal basis to try to use the card to drain money from his account. In fact, should they try I imagine there are lots of attorneys in California who would love to file a lawsuit because that would be the very definition of a taking without due process. So I’m left to think that Officer Aranas took the debit card just to be a dick. Mission accomplished, dick.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because, while asset forfeiture is inexplicably legal, that is what the LEO’s call it. If they called it theft, which is what it is, they would be admitting to a crime.

I believe it is the 5th Amendment which says …” nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” that they would use as an excuse. Of course LEO’s only admit to the existence of the Constitution when it benefits them.

submandave says:

Robin Hood

The left often get the story of Robin Hood wrong. Yes, he did steal from the “rich” and give to the “poor,” but the “rich” he stole from were royalty and the sheriff who got that way from robbing the “poor” under the auspice of the law. The story of Robin Hood is really the story of one of the first libertarians and small government advocates. When you watch this video, just imagine this cop as the Sheriff of Nottingham, robbing the citizen for the benefit of himself and Prince John (aka Berkeley City Government).

simonides (profile) says:

Did the Berekely officer issue a receipt?

He knew he was being videoed, so even if he had planned to pocket some or all of the money, he probably felt he had to turn the money in. If he was dutifully and honestly following policy and training by taking vendors’ money, had be been issued a pad of receipts? Did he give the vendor a receipt? If the campus police are not given receipts to issue to people whose money they seize (however useless in retrieving one’s money), it should look a lot like looting even to people who have not yet come to realize the corruption inherent in asset seizure.

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