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5 Suggestions to Help Stop Police Impersonators

5 Suggestions to Help Stop Police Impersonators

Andrew Hawkes / PoliceLink

Law enforcement officers across the country share information everyday about suspected police impersonators that are roaming our streets, conducting traffic stops, committing crimes, often violent in nature, and then driving off into the abyss with little information other than “A white car with lights and a male in a dark uniform with some unknown type of badge”.

Stopping these offenders, or at the very least hindering their illegal operation doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. It is funny to me how some of the lawmakers of our state can over look such small loopholes in our statutes that sometimes create huge problems.

For example, in Texas, we have quite a few offenses that involve criminals impersonating police. Here are a few of my suggestions that the legislature could act upon to help curtain this problem:

1. Stop selling used retired squad cars to the general public. We drive Ford Crown Vic police interceptors that are simply stripped of the decals and sold at auction to anyone that wants to pay $3000 for one of them. The next thing you know is you’re on patrol and you can’t tell if it’s a detective from a local agency or an impersonator. Everyone from volunteer firemen to minimum wage security guards are driving white Crown Vics with spotlights and dark tinted windows. This practice has to stop.

2. Write new and tougher legislation on flashing lights and strobes. Don’t allow everyone and their mother to have some sort of variation of strobes that are legal. Narrow the statutes and be extremely specific about the use of all types of colored strobe lights and limit them to emergency vehicles only.

3. For the love of God come up with a standardized, across the board uniform for all private security guards and companies and make sure that they do not resemble police uniforms in anyway. I’ve seen marked uniforms and security “patrol” vehicles that are exact matches for the Dallas Police Department and the only difference is the tiny wording on the patches or car.

4. Enact legislation to stop the practice in law enforcement agencies to drive unmarked, colored squad cars. When you see an unmarked, colored squad car, you still know it’s the police, so what purpose do they serve? They are not covert so mark them out or drive something more covert.

5. We live in a society of scam artists, even in law enforcement, We as officer’s must be more lenient when it comes to the average citizen wanting and expecting more “proof” that we are indeed the police. These impersonators have created this problem. But, because of this problem, as a cop I have to be patient and not be offended if I need to show someone my ID card, let them read the wording on my badge and patch and even hand everyone that I encounter my business card. I tell my family if they ever question someone who looks like a police officer that stops them to ask for these things, and if you are a real “cop” you should have no problem comforting them. It can’t be an ego thing; it must be handled as a safety issue.

God bless the men and women in blue that put their life on the line to serve and protect. And if you are one that wants to be a fake to commit crimes, watch out, because we are coming for you.

  • Alert_star_usa_the_one_max50


    3 days ago


    Some good points and a few very one sided. First of all I run a security company and have crown vic patrol cars. Our units are very well marked as SECURITY as are our uniforms (not the same color as the police use) We work very well with our local department and treat each other with respect. Both the police and security have jobs to do and the trick is knowing who is responsible for what. As security our job is to look for problems and report them, the job of the police is to react when needed for the safety of all. I know its not that simple but my point is very clear. Why do we use the same equipment as the PD the reason may surprise you. Its not to look like the Police or act like them, the reason is the Crown Vic is one very tough car and runs for years under very hard patrol conditions. Next is most units that come off a department are very well maintained and we continue following the same servicing plan that most departments use. The next is safety as the units can withstand a much harder impact then most cars out there. Don't get me wrong we do not do high speed anything, however I had one of my units take a side impact from a drunk and thank god no one was hurt. (no one was chasing him he just floored it and blew past the stop sign). My people help the police when ever needed and again while in public and on public property the police are in control, however one thing that everyone should remember is on private property at least in my state security has more authority to take action then the police. Its simple that's when we call them after all we detect and they react and as a team it works very well. So to the writer of the above please consider that in the field the person who may well save your life could be a security officer. Thanks for reading and god bless all in law enforcement.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    10 months ago


    From reading your article, it seems more like you have a blanket problem against security guards than anything else. I work in the Dallas area and patrol a rather rough apartment called the Village, we take similar risks as police officers, so it is necessary to instill that inherent fear in criminals by appearing as if we are cops. Check out LEAPS ran by your police department. Perhaps you could learn a thing or too before running your mouth.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    10 months ago


    I don't have a problem with security guards looking like cops at all. In fact, I don't see why anyone would. The cop appearance is the appearance the client wants to reduce crime. It is in fact safer to be mistaken for a cop than as a security guard because criminals are much easily deterred by cops over security guards.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 2 years ago


    All great ideas but if local and state LEO were using the "Smart Shield" in their vehicles this could all be avoided.

  • Pc120126_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I think cities/counties should remove spotlights and put cheap paint jobs on ex-marked units headed to auction. I know I've been fooled a few time!

    California has very strict laws regarding forward looking red and blue lights, to the point reversing side markers (yellow to front, red to back of car) is an impound offense. Our City Park Ranger vehicles had red only light bars, even though Rangers were fully sworn (SJPD Academy - POST certified), only the PD proper had combo red/blue. We (Rangers) did on occasion make good use of unmarked vehicles, especially at night. Different states, different laws, but I do believe Security vehicles should NOT have locally recognized emergency vehicle equipment or markings.

    I'm not aware of any circumstances where a person impersonating/wearing a Security Officer uniform went out making car stops etc. Most morons involved in these activities impersonate LEO, not Security. Sooner or later one of these morons will pull over a felon and it will be lights out! Stupid is as stupid does, and you can't fix it...

    Wearing a LEO or LEO like uniform in itself can be asking for trouble...LEO get targeted for assassination (or ambush) on occasion, but no one sets out to ambush a Security Officer; it's a risk most non-LEO trained people don't consider - including impostors and Security 'wanna-be' trying to look like local LEO. It can be a death wish for the untrained and unobservant.

    Security uniforms need to be adjustable to the site and situation the guards/officers are responsible for, without being identical to any local LE uniforms. The stereotype gray is fine for guarding construction sites, stores and other low level or risk sites. A more imposing (or "command presence") uniform may be justified for higher risk sites, where situations might develop in which a Security person could have an immediate impact on public safety (high crime areas, housing projects, large crowd situations, Hazmat situations etc.).

    I currently work for a Casino/Resort/Condo complex on The Strip in Vegas. We just switched over to LAPD style uniforms (from all black suits and ties, which necessitated a CCW) to create a stronger presence on out properties. LE backup is a long time coming, and if the sh*t hits the fan - whether it be a massive fight, an active shooter, a fire, an evacuation or whatever, we need guests to obey and listen NOW to preserve their own safety. The 'F..You -you're just a bunch of rent-a-cops' image isn't doing anyone any favors: not us, not the Fire Dept, not LVMPD and not the Gaming Commission.

    This is why you see many (but not all) of Casino Security looking, and sometimes equipped, better than some smaller LE agencies. This is a locally accepted and justified exception to the rule (or suggestion) that Security look like Goober Pyle and act like Barney Fife.

    Just an FYI: we have just over 5 weeks training with an FTO program, that includes full OC certification, firearms qualification, ASP certification (including some brutal Redman time), state, local and gaming laws, 40 hours of Control Force / handcuffing training, and of course CPR / AED certification (which I've had to use).

    In the last year, I've had 3 partners hospitalized, one in physical rehab, for injuries from bar or club fights; one female partner picked up by a bodybuilder and thrown 15 feet into an elevator full of people, another officer bitten, breaking his skin, by a confirmed HIV+ homeless person, one punched in the face by a drunk, off-duty, out of state LEO (who called our guy a 'rent-a-cop' just before striking him), too many death threats from pimps - and hookers - to count, 3 suicides (including one jumper), another female officer assaulted by an MMA fighter, we were first on the scene in the last week to 2 auto vs pedestrian accidents, the list goes on.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    I just posted on one of your other topics, and it made me want to read some more of your articles...I disagreed with the other topic quite a bit, but I think this article has much more merit.
    While I dont think standardizing private uniforms is a path that our government should take, there should be regulations as to what can be considered "impersonating an officer" that should be applied such as a badge or patch with certain colors or lettering that no one can wear except officers, this would allow private companies to still choose how they want to be perceived, but not allow them to identify as police.
    Discontinuing unmarked cars is one of the most inspired points you made. Your reasons are good, but even beyond those reasons, unmarked cars put the police in a position of lurking about trying to sneak up on people. this causes more disrespect for officers and mistrust of them by the population than any benefit it brings. Have unmarked cars for undercover operations, of course thats smart, but no on duty officer in public should have to hide his identity...when I see a cop car and I am speeding, I slow down...when a gangbanger is tagging a wall and he sees a cop car he leaves and stops what he was doing....visible police vehicles are as much a deterrent as actual criminal penalties in many cases, and I am so glad that at least one officer agrees with me that they should not be used.

  • Justice-400_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Three will never happen. Standardized uniforms across the board means certain businesses can't sell their uniforms anymore, or can't sell certain kinds of varying prices. I would really like to see #2 happen, but that'll take some lobbying and pushing for that legislation by, say, a retired officer? We have one in my area that got a major bill on the ballot this year, and it seems he has a powerful voice. Something to think about for those of you who are at that point. I hear a lot of complaints about politicians on this website, so maybe it's time for people in jobs with the highest integrity to move into a job with some of the lowest and clean it up!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    When I used to work security, I would get mistaken for Border Patrol and county deputies. I was just a $10 an hour, security officer and didn't want to be mistaken for anything else. Police, Deputies and Troopers get specialize training to handle and respond to things the average security officer wouldn't know how to handle or react (most of the time) It looks like 90% of those who responded are not verified LEO's. If you're not LEO or worked security you wouldn't understand some things security officers go through and how some of them think. They don't always get in this line of work just because it's a job or they've always wanted to be a security officer.

  • Images_max160_sq90_max50


    over 4 years ago


    4 Can't be done. My organization needs covert vehicles. The others are ok.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    1: Police interceptors are durable hard-lasting vehicles, and purchased by most for the low cost and high value of the vehicle. They're not purchased to impersonate a cop, they're purchased to drive. In the case of volunteer firemen, however, a reconditioned Interceptor fits the LEGAL fireman's lights on it rather well, and presents an imposing image on the road, allowing them to RESPOND faster.

    2: Texas has strict laws on strobes and flashing lights that face both forwards and back. Might I direct your attention to the Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 547 "Vehicle Equipment," subchapter D. "general provisions regarding lighting requirements," Section 547.305 "Restrictions on use of lights."

    3: Private security is an authority on scene. Just like police officers are, for the most part, law abiding and honest people; security officers are, for the most part, not rent-a-cops out to play Dirty Harry. The wearing of a uniform imparts an immediate authority for most people, and security guards work in environments where they need to have that authority. They are the first line of defense in any incident, be it a minor customer altercation at a bingo hall, or a major robbery at a bank - security responds first. Security is also highly regulated in Texas, requiring state-run background checks, specific duty equipment with regards to lethal and non-lethal weaponry. You can generally be assured that the security officer you see in a uniform is vetted as much as any CHL holder, law enforcement officer, or corrections officer. Why take a tool away from the good guys? The bad guys can pick up a costume at Party City just as easily. Costs less, too. Duty gear is friggin' expensive.

    4: Law Enforcement buys fleet vehicles. Fleet vehicles are sold for the purpose of: Taxis, Corrections, general Government Vehicles, Law Enforcement, and corporate vehicles. By the grace of Detroit, law enforcement is offered an upgraded package including: engine, drivetrain, wheels, differential, suspension, brakes, interior mount point and electric systems, wiring, and power production for accessories. So yes, let's stop providing detectives and task force operatives, rank and civilian support from driving these tuned vehicles for the purposes they were built for - to wit, responding to an incident in a timely and safe manner.

    5. I couldn't agree more.

    You make good logic in your article, however you are greatly misinformed in the base you build your logic on. Read up on the statutes and research the reasons behind people's actions before you go putting things down on paper. I'm sorry if I come off as cranky, but I just spent the last nine hours making sure the guys you sent to prison stay there.

  • Patrol_vehicle_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    I live in Maine, and a Current Security Officer and hold a Reserve Police Officer Certification.
    1. In Maine most agencies run not only the CVPI, but the Impala, Explorer, Expedition, Suburban and Tahoe. and at one point I saw state police in a '93 Dodge Dynasty. Restricting the sale of ex law enforcement vehicles isn't gonna slow down or stop anyone trying to impersonate. Take an '02 Grand Marquis, turn the parking lights on and take the hubcaps off and come 6 at night you cant tell the difference between it or a town cruiser.
    2. Maine's Laws concerning aftermarket lighting and authorized lighting is already pretty strict. Police can use Blue and Red, Fire and EMS apparatus use red with one Blue in the rear, Fire and EMS POV can have a single red light emitting from the dash or above the front license plate. Purple for Funeral, and Security has Yellow and only yellow.
    3. Why does Security have to come up with a generalized uniform. If so then Police should do the same thing. God Forbid some how somewhere a security officer and a police officer are wearing the same style uniform. there is no way to prevent it. we just have to trust whoever is in uniform is using it responsibly.
    4. Really?? yunno what your right. maybe we shouldn't have unmarked CVPI's. AMERICA, INTRODUCING THE NEW UNMARKED POLICE VEHICLE, THE 1981 HONDA HATCHBACK. Seriously get over yourself. again, its like trying to stop the sale of retired police vehicles
    5. I couldn't agree with you more

  • Im000112_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    You'll never get the first one. Sell retired vehicles is a major way governments use to recoup money. I think that the spotlights and pushbars should, of course, be removed. They can be used on other vehicles. Other than that most old police cars look no different than civilian versions. If you really wanted to hinder impersonators you'd have to outlaw selling civilian models of patrol vehicles(ie Crown Vics, Mustangs, Impalas etc).
    There are plenty of laws on the books regulating warning lights already. The main trouble here is that laws vary from state to state and the public doesn't understand colors. There might need to be a national standard. For example, in Massachusetts blue is a police color and only police use it. All other emergency vhicles have to use red. In Texas, however, blue is simply a warning color. It is used in conjunction with red for police cars to help emphasize police emergency, but it is used alone or with amber lights for street and water crews who have to tear up streets, highway construction crews (public and private), private funeral escorts and security. Blue lights are often used by ambulances and fire trucks! From watching TV the general public associates blue with police so someone with a legal blue light could impersonate a cop.
    I doubt the security industry would go for a standard uniform. While some do use a uniform similar to cops to make people think they're cops, most uniforms are designed to advertise the company. Look at Wackenhut. That uniform stands out. Noboy wants to end up with the Hollywood standard. Remember all those cops shows from the 70s and 80s where every police department looked like the LAPD and every security officer wore the same drab grayish uniform with the standard "Security Guard" patch?
    The unmarked police vehicle is standard. They are purchased in bulk along with the marked cars. They are driven by detectives mostly as well as administrative personnel and high ranking persons. You'd be surprised how successfully these cars blend in during surveillance. Enough so that would be criminals routinely miss them when they commit a crime. For more covert jobs and undercover assignments other cars are used, but for fleet management and budget purposes the unmark version of a marked car is here to stay.
    I do agree on the ID part. it used to be standard practice to show the department ID upon request even if in uniform.
    If I was to suggest anything it would be to stop the practice of conducting vehicle stops with unmarked units. We all watch cops do it all the time on COPS and other police reality shows, especially for drug and prostitution stings. They might have LEDs or strobes in the grill or, more likely, a dash light. The officers are in plainclothes wearing a "POLICE" vest or shirt or no outward ID at all except a badge and gun on the hip. An unmarked unit needing to stop someone could request a marked unit conduct the stop. If the public knows that a totally unmarked unit is not allowed to pull them over the that would seriously hinder impersonators.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I have to agree with both "Instructor" and "sdaugh7261". I have been in law enforcement, but now work as a Security Officer. We have similair equipment, because we need it for our job too. Not every Security Officer is harboring an unfulfilled need as a wanna be "real" cop as you imply. Where I work we where identical uniforms to the local police, except for the badge and patches. This similarity has helped reduce crimes as sdaugh7261 has pointed out, but it also helps keep us safer as people have more respect for LEO's than security incliding criminals. Simply driving to work helps slow down speeders when they see the uniform, undoubtedly saving lives. We are not trying to "impersonate" police and I will readily tell anyone that ask that I am a Security Officer not a police officer, but as mentioned the similarity has helped reduce cimes. Additionally, it is not Security Officers that are commiting the crimes that you mention impersonators commit and, therefore having similair uniforms is a mute point. The salaries of Security Offficers has nothing to do with impersonators and you owe the whole profession an apology. The only thing I can agree with are the lights. I remember a time when only police could use the blue lights, maybe we should return to that. Other than that, "Instructor" has done a great job of pointing out the abuse of Constitutional rights you advocate violating. Very poor article.

  • 82_s_nam_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Problem may simply be that the vehicles are being sold without being "stripped". Take off the spots, plug the antennas and remove all emergency lights/cut the cables, etc before auction or sale. Pass legislation that vehicles with lights that are re-activated can be confiscated if stopped with either thjose lights activated or during other stops.

    Make it unprofitable and unreasonable for the cars to be put to impersonator use. Make use of the vehicles a felony by anyone in a non-official capacity IF they use lighting or equipment designed specifically for law enforcement.

    Our CVPI's were required to pass insprection and all lighting meet state codes. One piece of lighting that didn't meant the vehicle was off the road. Why not the same for security and other users?

  • Dec012008standbest5_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Way off base....... it's like you're blaming the gun for the shooting. Cars, radios, lights, sirens, strobes do not do anything by themselves, it takes the moron mentality. And you seriously worked the road and want to outlaw unmarked colored Crown Vics?????
    Stick with the internet columns, advice like yours gets good cops hurt!

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