An Uber driver who’d missed some car-rental payments and had his vehicle reported stolen, and San Roman police then allowed their K-9 to maul him badly, in an incident that begs ethical issues of gig-car-rental companies and police use of force.
One of the sadder aspects of the sub-minimum wage, no-benefits worker exploitation that is the modern-day rideshare industry is that new predatory lending practice of conning someone into renting a car to do the rideshare or delivery driving, and then trapping them in some sort of subprime loan debt hell. The rental companies then quickly report the car stolen once the driver misses a payment or two, adding criminal charges to the poor driver’s debt.
Ali Badr rented a car to keep getting Uber fares. From a company that caters to rideshare drivers. He was late on a couple payments. The owner reported it stolen, per his lawsuit. An automatic license plate reader alerted cops, leading to traffic stop.https://t.co/EDrTRU5o9P— Matthias Gafni (@mgafni) January 3, 2022
But the Chronicle has the story of how this contemporary Dickens nightmare can be even worse. An Egyptian man driving for Uber missed car payments and made arrangements to pay, but the rental company still reported the car stolen. San Ramon police then pulled him over and allowed their K-9 to maul him aggressively, leaving the man with permanent injuries.
The Chronicle has terrifying video of the arrest incident, which took place in December 2020. The mauling victim, Ali Badr, had been pulled over on suspicion of auto theft, complies entirely with every single order from the officers, and is unarmed. San Ramon police nonetheless allow the dog to maul Badr, who is seen screaming in agony and begging for mercy.
Badr now has a federal lawsuit against the city of San Ramon, its police department, the officer who handles the K-9 handler, and the rideshare rental car company CarMommy.
“The beginning of the process is this calling in of a stolen car that everybody knew wasn’t stolen,” Badr’s attorney Matthew Haley told the Chronicle. And as for the dog mauling, he said ““It was absolutely, positively uncalled for. [Badr] is the nicest guy you will ever meet in your life. Hardworking Uber driver in the middle of the pandemic just trying to make ends meet, and this is what befalls him. It’s stunning. It’s hard to watch that video.”
Ali signed up for a four month car lease through these businesses.— Gig Workers Rising (@GigWorkersRise) January 3, 2022
As the pandemic raged on, income dried up even more.
Ali tried to contact the companies about submitting a late payment, which he had consistently and reliably done in the past.
To be fair, the pandemic has made theft of rental cars into a more serious issue, and rental companies are tightening up their theft reporting criteria. On top of that, Governor Newsom signed a bill in 2019 that shortens the theft reporting window from five day to three days. That allows rideshare rental to report alleged thefts more aggressively, but as CBS News reports, it’s also resulted in a rash of false arrests for theft.
Add to that how police may err on the side of brutality when approaching a theft suspect. The Chron checked the San Ramon Police Department use of force guidelines, which say that “A canine may be used to locate and apprehend a suspect if the canine handler reasonably believes that the individual has either committed, is committing or threatening to commit any serious offense.” There is no definition of “serious offense” there, so an officer can legally deploy the K-9 in attack mode with a nonviolent offender. But it’s clear in the video that Badr has already been located and apprehended, so there may indeed be a case.
Yet, ultimately, there was no case for car theft. The San Ramon District Attorney threw out all the charges, never telling him, so Badr did not learn the case was dismissed until he showed up for his court date. So Badr no longer has theft charges against him, but he does have permanent injuries where he had to have 36 stitches because of the dog attack.
Related: New Report Ranks How Much Bay Area Law Enforcement Agencies Pay For Violent Officer Misconduct [SFist]