You see the lights and hear the sounds of the police sirens pierce your ears as a cop trails behind you, waiting for you to pull over. Your heart starts racing, wondering what it is you did wrong.
“Was I speeding? Did I run that stop sign back there?” your mind ponders.
You stop your car and wait for the cop to come to your window. He walks up wearing all black, wearing only a badge to prove he’s a cop and asks bizarre questions to make you question why he pulled you over in the first place. You call the cops… and you realize… the man who pulled you over wasn’t a real cop.
This was the case for one confused woman in Victorville, California. She was just driving down the street innocently when a 14-year-old pulled her over and asked to see her ID. He then scanned her plates, and let her go with a “warning” since he had no authority to actually give her a ticket. Even though he was a young boy, she didn’t suspect that he was a fake cop.
He then showed up at another lady’s house and knocked on her door to alert her of a domestic disturbance call. The lady didn’t catch on to his age and proceeded to help him look where the disturbance call was coming from. However, the lady’s daughter wasn’t so convinced when she saw his baggy uniform and calm attitude about the call. She called the police, which made the boy speed away in his great grandmother’s van that he stole.
A few days later, cops were able to spot the boy and his great grandmother in a parking lot sitting in a very familiar van. They were then able to arrest the boy in the parking lot and drove back to his great grandma’s house to look for evidence. They found a plethora of police gear bought with the boy’s dog walking and lawn mowing money. This included a police uniform, realistic Airsoft guns, a gun belt, ballistic vests, and ballistic helmets.
He was arrested on numerous felony charges, including impersonating a police officer and driving without a driver’s license. He was detained at the High Desert Juvenile Department, then was released on parole for a short period of time. He then proceeded to go back to impersonating a police officer, as proven by evidence found by his parole officer who found numerous items in his house. He was then arrested again and now sits in the Juvenile Detention Center, grounded for life.
There was also an instance where a girl was touched inappropriately by someone claiming to be a police officer. She was driving down Old Opelika Road when a police officer pulled her over. The man was in a white pick up truck with an amber light flashing on top of it (not red and blue). He was also wearing a uniform with no patches on it except for a badge that read Opelika Police. He then approached her car and started questioning her, then before driving off groped her.
This is starting to happen more and more every day. Either, unmarked police cars pull people over or these pretend cops show up at people’s houses to show false authority. Then when they have their victims’ attention, they ask them questions and take advantage of them to get what they want; whether its financially, sexually or to publicly humiliate them. Because of this, we need to know the signs to look out for when spotting fake cops, what to do when we suspect someone is impersonating a police officer, and what the consequences are if you pretend to be a cop.
How Do You Spot a Fake Cop?
- They pull up in an unmarked police car. Yes, there are cops who have unmarked police cars. However, there are also people who put fake lights up on their cars and are caught impersonating a cop. If you are ever suspicious of the car behind you, either call 911 or pullover anyways, but only crack your window to show your ID and registration. You can also ask the “police officer” to show their ID and badge or ask for another cop to show up at the scene. If the person claiming to be a police officer can’t do these things, he’s most likely impersonating a cop.
- The lights on their car are flashing different colors, not red and blue. There are some people who don’t get the memo that the flashing lights of a cop are supposed to be red and blue. If they are flashing orange, purple, or anything else then it is most likely someone who is impersonating a cop. If this ever happens to you, call 911 before pulling over.
- They have too calm of an attitude, and keep letting people go with “warnings”. If they are trying to find an emergency call or they are pulling you over for something they claim to be “serious” yet they are super calm about it, this could be a sign they are impersonating a cop. Police officers are supposed to be stern and somewhat worried when there is an emergency call or if you are driving recklessly since the public would be put in danger. Also, if they are letting everyone go with “warnings”, then it probably means they can’t give people tickets since they don’t have the proper authorities to do so. If they are too calm about certain accusations and they aren’t giving you a ticket, chances are they are impersonating a cop.
- Their police gear seems fake, and their uniform doesn’t fit or look right. Just like the lady’s daughter in the beginning story, if you see that the cop’s uniform doesn’t fit him right and you’re getting a gut feeling that he isn’t real, listen to your gut. A police officer’s uniform is supposed to fit them and not be super baggy or tight. Also, their uniform is supposed to have patches on them other than just a badge. If there are no other patches on their uniform and there’s just a badge, that’s also a reason to question if they are legit or not. Their gear is also supposed to be legit as well. If their guns seem to resemble Airsoft guns or their handcuffs look like it’s from the dollar store, then it’s even more of a reason to question them.
- They won’t show you your credentials. If a cop won’t show you his badge, certificate, or ID to prove he’s a cop, he’s most likely not. A real police officer would have no problem showing you these things to prove they have earned the authority of being a cop. If the cop doesn’t want to show you any of these items and comes up with excuses as to why he can’t, he’s probably bluffing about his title.
- They won’t call for backup when asked to. If a police officer can’t call his other fellow cops for backup, he is most likely not a real cop. Anyone who is a real cop can go on their walkie talkie or other communication devices, tell their buddy to come on the scene, and prove that they’re a cop so that you’ll listen to their orders. If someone can’t do that yet expects you to obey them and you don’t feel comfortable, call 911 immediately.
What Are the Consequences of Pretending to be a Cop?
For every state, the consequences of impersonating a police officer are different. Some state consider it a misdemeanor while other states consider it a felony. However, no matter what state you are in, it is still against the law to impersonate a cop. Also, in many states, it is illegal to use certain equipment that cops use, such as the red and blue flashing lights on your vehicle or wearing a fake police badge. If you’re carrying a gun and also look like a cop, that could get you into even more trouble depending on the state.
Consequences can include:
- Going to prison for up to 5 or more years.
- Paying hefty fines of $1,000 or more
- Going on probation
- Obtaining a permanent criminal record
What Do You Do if You Suspect Someone is Impersonating a Police Officer?
If you suspect someone is pretending to be a cop, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!! They will be able to tell you if the cop you are dealing with is the real deal or not.
If you are driving and are being pulled over by someone who doesn’t look like a real cop, you will not get punished for waiting to be pulled over if you call 911. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you can always crack your window while talking with the police officer and ask for his credentials or ask for him to call backup. If he can’t call for backup or show his credentials, call 911 immediately because he is probably a fake cop.
If a cop shows up to your house and you suspect something is up, again call 911. If you would rather ask for their credentials and backup first, that’s fine as long as they don’t enter your house for your safety. If you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable in a situation, call 911, especially if this “cop” sexually assaulted or harassed you in any way.
Trust your gut, follow your instincts, and if someone claims to be a cop but seems fishy do not be afraid to report it. If they have given you any personal information, you can also do a reverse search to see if they are who they say they are after the fact. Just know, the law does not tolerate anyone who impersonates public or federal officials and will give anyone you report the proper punishment. Do not trust everyone that claims to be a cop, especially if any of their gear or mannerisms seem fishy.