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Are police impersonations on the rise? Several incidents around Indiana recently, as well as a cluster of episodes reported last fall, have made us wonder. The new reports reminded us that some of these cases remain unsolved.
It was a little too early for Halloween, but last October there were at least four separate incidents involving traffic stops by suspected police impersonators. All of them were in or around Indianapolis, and at least two seem to have involved the same vehicle.
If these incidents were related, the perpetrator may have given up his masquerade after the fourth incident, in which the victim—a former officer—confronted him about his impersonation. Several impersonators have blown their own game in a similar way: In 2015, police in Virginia, Colorado, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey all arrested impersonators who made the mistake of pulling over officers or detectives in unmarked cars.
Perhaps you noticed reports in February of a woman who thought she had been pulled over by an imposter on I-65 near Crown Point. There was confusion in this particular incident, as the Indiana State Police (ISP) quickly determined that the “fake” officer was, in fact, a real uniformed police officer who happened to be driving an unmarked car.
But many other incidents are not legitimate at all. In December, a Seymour man was arrested for impersonating a police officer after showing off the police-like lights he had installed in his car. He had also used the lights while following another vehicle, which brought him to the attention of law enforcement. Police in Terre Haute are still on the lookout for an impersonator after a fraudulent traffic stop was reported in mid-February.
Impersonators don’t only drive the streets—sometimes they walk a beat. In February 2015, a Bloomfield man was arrested for representing himself as an undercover narcotics officer. On at least one occasion, the imposter visited a home and used his false police identity to get information from the residents, ostensibly as part of a missing person case. The suspect’s actual motives were not reported, but identity theft might have been one reason, since the suspect copied down information from the victims’ IDs.
A 2014 incident eventually led to charges against the owner of an Indianapolis security firm who had at different times represented himself as an officer of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. He may have done so in an effort to improve his company’s chances of landing a security contract.
In a separate incident, the state suspended the license of another private security firm because their vehicles and uniforms too closely resembled actual police equipment. They were also accused of making false claims about their arrest powers and relationships with law enforcement agencies.
If you suspect that a police officer is an impersonator, you should make a report to the real police as soon as possible. When you’re in your car, the situation may be less safe. The ISP recommends that you follow these steps if you have concerns over the legitimacy of an officer or a traffic stop:
The ISP also wants to remind motorists that an officer in an unmarked car can’t make a traffic stop unless they are in full uniform. When using a marked car, a plain clothes officer can also make a stop.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car crash, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Automobile Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.