The University of California, Berkeley, is investigating the behavior of a campus police officer who confronted a bacon-hot-dog vendor and confiscated his earnings this past weekend. Video of the UCPD bicycle cop and the vendor had gone viral.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the video was taken by Martin Flores, a Berkeley alumnus who had stopped by the vendor to buy some food for his kids after the Cal game against Weber State on Saturday.
In the video, you can see the campus police officer pulling bills from the vendor’s wallet and folding them into his hand.
“That’s not right, man. That’s not right,” Flores says.
“That’s how it works,” the cop says.
“You’re going to take his hard-earned money?” Flores presses, pointing out that the cops could give drinking citations, but “a hardworking man, selling hot dogs, earning a living, gets his money taken away?”
“He doesn’t have a permit,” the officer responds.
The Mercury News reports that UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy released a statement addressing the incident, noting that law-enforcement officers typically give warnings before citing illegal vendors. But Biddy also mentioned that the university had explicitly instructed officers to “monitor illegal vending outside our event venues.”
Biddy also defended the officer’s actions in taking the money, saying that “it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”
The evidence, in this case, was $60 pulled from the vendor’s wallet.
Following the response to his video, Flores started a GoFundMe for the vendor, “Juan.” Flores had hoped to raise $10,000 for the vendor to cover his legal and personal losses. Currently, over $58,000 has been donated.
Attacks on vendors have garnered a lot of attention—and stoked a lot of fear—on social media outlets, especially following Donald Trump’s ascendance to the presidency. But even before Trump fanned the fires of immigrant resentment among his supporters, local and state officials have struggled to adjust to the realities of these enterprises, which have become a deeply ingrained cultural component of many California neighborhoods.
One Mitú blog post from 2015 highlights this issue, focusing on a crackdown in San Bernardino of fruteros (fruit sellers) and flower vendors. The San Bernardino Police Department took photos of the bust and congratulated itself on its “community policing.” But the photos of cops busting truck beds full of flowers and wheeling away fruit carts had many wondering how San Bernardino was choosing to focus its policing efforts.
This recent video also displays how the conflict between street vendors and the police is largely unnecessary. Vendors have been begging county and city officials to legalize their business for years. As the Los Angeles Times editorial board outlined late last year, legalizing street vending would allow officials to regulate the trade in smart ways—making sure that vendors operate in safe locations, for instance. Refusing to acknowledge how deeply ingrained the practice is within immigrant and Latino communities—and ignoring the many practical ways that local officials and law enforcement could work with these groups—is irresponsible and a waste of everyone’s time.