East Bay Community Law Center Urges University of California Police Department to Open an Independent Investigation into the Prior Misconduct of Officer Sean Aranas

Friday, September 22, 2017

Media Contacts:
Theresa Zhen, 510-269-6635, tzhen@ebclc.org
Victoria Larson, 510-269-6685, vlarson@ebclc.org

East Bay Community Law Center Urges University of California Police Department to Open an Independent Investigation into the Prior Misconduct of Officer Sean Aranas

September 21, 2017

BERKELEY, CA – On September 21, 2017, the East Bay Community Law Center sent an open letter to the University of California Police Department (UCPD) Chief of Police urging that the internal investigation into UCPD Officer Sean Aranas’s conduct during the citation of a hot dog vendor on September 9th be broadened to cover the allegations summarized in the petition and additional complaints about Ofc. Aranas’s misconduct towards community members and students.

In the letter, East Bay Community Law Center attorneys and Berkeley Law clinical students detail numerous incidents of Ofc. Aranas’s abusive conduct towards its clients and community member. These include:

  • Multiple instances of the use of excessive use of force – one community member was thrown to the ground by Ofc. Aranas while standing on the sidewalk holding a skateboard; another watched Ofc. Aranas tackle a mentally ill homeless woman at People’s Park. In one instance a man with one leg using a wheelchair was grabbed by Ofc. Aranas and, with other UC police officers assisting, thrown to the ground, and taken by ambulance to the hospital, all because Ofc. Aranas saw the man’s four year-old son knock a government a sign that was impeding wheelchair access to the park.
  • Reports alleged Ofc. Aranas’ flagrant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including in refusing to honor disability placards because Ofc. Aranas thought the person was not disabled enough to deserve them.
  • Reports of Ofc. Aranas throwing the property of people who are homeless out into the gutter and destroying it.

“Many of the individuals making these reports are indigent and homeless, and unable to adequately pursue their claims or obtain redress for their grievances,” says Tirien Steinbach, Executive Director of the East Bay Community Law Center. “When a police officer uses his power to abuse and antagonize those most vulnerable in society, it is incumbent upon all relevant entities to hold that officer accountable for his actions through an investigation performed by an independent body.”

Many community members stated that Ofc. Aranas’s conduct, and the officers that condone that conduct, “undermine the trust between the community and law enforcement.” Victoria Larson, Berkeley Law clinical student at the East Bay Community Law Center, stated.

“When we did outreach to People’s Park, all we had to do was mention the name of Ofc. Aranas, and stories of his abuse, harassment, and petty bullying poured out.”

Osha Neumann, an East Bay Community Law Center attorney said, “I’ve been very frustrated over the years hearing over and over again people’s stories of mistreatment at the hands of Ofc. Aranas, and not being able to tell people that there is an easy remedy. I hope now, the University will do a thorough independent investigation misconduct over the years and take whatever action is then appropriate.”

On Saturday, September 9th, Ofc. Sean Aranas ticketed a hot dog vendor selling hot dogs outside of a Cal football game, rifled through his wallet, and confiscated his money. Ofc. Aranas refused to return the money to the vendor. The entire incident was recorded on video, and it spread widely on the internet. The video sparked public outrage. Since the release of the video, a petition has circulated online to remove Officer Aranas from the UCPD, garnering 57,000 signatures. This incident prompted an internal investigation into Ofc. Aranas’ conduct. The result of that investigation is pending.

You can read EBCLC’s open letter here.

The East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) provides free legal services to eligible East Bay clients. Since its founding in 1988 by law students at UC Berkeley School of Law, EBCLC has
become the largest provider of free legal services in the East Bay. To learn more, go to www.ebclc.org.

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