Impersonating a Police Officer?

Recently there have been reports of people impersonating police officers. In the past week alone, I have noticed two reports of police impersonation in the news.

Last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana two men, Chad Phillips and Davante Brooks burglarized a home while impersonating police officers. The homeowner was very skeptical of the two and eventually, the men kicked the door of the home down and pulled weapons to scare the homeowner. Thankfully these two individuals were caught and arrested last Friday.

Another incident occurred in Brooklyn, New York earlier this week. 36-year-old Arcelay Camilo was arrested by the NYPD for impersonating a police officer. Camilo ended up robbing four stores before finally being caught. One of the store employees from the scene stated,

“A guy came with the police uniform, NYPD, and then he said (he was) from the drugs department and cigarettes. He walked in behind the counter to search if we have anything.”

Thankfully the employees working in the store were very suspicious and bombarded the impersonator with questions. They eventually said that they were going to call 911 to check out Camilo’s story and make sure that he wasn’t lying. Camilo ended up fleeing the scene before being caught shortly after.

These two incidents really stood out to me because I’m not used to hearing about this in the news. Usually, all the news stories about criminal activity involve robberies, murders and stuff like that. Clearly, I know that it has happened before, but it is just something that you don’t think about every day.

Obviously impersonating a police officer is VERY illegal. If caught, you can be arrested and sentenced anywhere to 5 years or more in jail depending on what state you are in. You can also receive fines anywhere from 1000 dollars or more.

This is a very concerning issue. Can it really be that easy to impersonate a police officer?

Surprisingly it is very hard to identify a real police badge from a fake one. Even actual police officers have a hard time identifying a real badge from a fake.

While impersonating a police officer is a less common crime; it still happens. If a police officer cannot easily identify a real badge over a fake badge, how are we as citizens, supposed to? It is also very easy to fake a police officers outfit as well. All you have to do is go to a costume store or order one online!

So how are we to tell the difference between a real police officer and a fake one?

Here are some helpful ways to be able to try to identify if a police officer is a real officer or just an imposter:

If you ever have any suspicions about a police officer remember these tips. You always want to be aware especially when dealing with situations like this.

It is very sad that some people pretend to be police officers and try to take advantage of others. It is already a nerve-racking thing to be confronted by a police officer. The last thing I would expect when being confronted by a police officer is that someone is actually pretending to be an officer. All we can try to do is be more alert and aware when we are in these situations.

-Austin De Tray

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9 thoughts on “Impersonating a Police Officer?

  1. Police impersonation is a serious crime. With the internet, it is a lot easier than one may think to find a uniform and equipment. I found Harrisonburg police patches for sale in less than one minute just by googling it. It’s not difficult to find badges and patches online that look legitimate. You can also buy old police cars at auctions that still look like undercover police cars. People could impersonate officers by simply introducing themselves as someone with police authority. Knowing your location while you are driving could be important if you get pulled over. That way you can call the police and check to make sure a legitimate police officer is pulling you over. Overall I think knowing what a legitimate uniform and police vehicle look like will help. Is this a crime that occurs frequently? I imagine that this one crime leads to many other crimes because of the perceived power they have.

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  2. This is a very interesting topic because in movies they make it seem so easy to impersonate police officers; it was scary to learn how difficult it is to tell the difference between fake and real officers’ badges making the process even easier. It has always been a fear of mine of getting pulled over by a fake police impersonator. I am sure this is a common fear among others. Another tip that I have learned, that if you are getting pulled over at night, make sure to go to a lighted area and you can always call the police yourself as you said, to prove that they are an officer and to make you feel safer. These tips are definitely ones that I will keep in mind and share with others to ensure their safety. Thank you for the unique post! It is crazy that you read two different articles about it happening just this week! I wonder how often it actually happens and how long impersonators on average get away with it.

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  3. Austin,
    You mentioned in your blog that people can spend 5 years or more in prison or simply have to pay a 1000 dollar fine. I’m curious to know how they decide between the two, because they are very different punishments. I also do not think a person should be imprisoned for 5 years for impersonating a police officer, unless other crimes were committed with the act. I think that there are other sufficient punishments that can be implemented for non-violent crimes such as this. This would help to decrease the huge prison population in the United States. I do agree with you that this is a serious issue; however, I do not see any reason why 5 years in prison should be the punishment for the single act of impersonating a police officer. I think that it should be reduced to a max of 2 years and a fine. However, if an individual tries to burglarize a home while impersonating a police officer they should be sentenced longer and 5 years would be justifiable.
    On another note, I like how you mentioned how it is fairly easy to impersonate a police officer. I have never really thought about it, but I had no clue you could just order a uniform from online.
    -Danyelle Rinker

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  4. Austin,
    Your post was really interesting and reminded me of certain TV shows I used to watch where characters would impersonate cops as a joke. I feel like maybe since it has been used in the media to be funny and to make people laugh that the general public might underestimate how serious of a crime it is. I feel like I’ve seen characters impersonate a cop on Drake & Josh when it used to be on and Andy Dwyer impersonates am FBI agent on the comedy Parks and Rec. People might see these portrayals on TV and think they can either get away with it or that it isn’t that serious because they’re just “playing around” or “pretending.” I was shocked to hear about it happening in real life because I had really only seen it on TV. I really liked the information you included on making sure police officers are official as well, it reminded me of how my mom told me once that if I’m ever not sure that the person behind me while I’m driving is actually a cop trying to pull me over and isn’t just someone with a blue flashing light that they bought in the internet, there is a certain phone number I can call to ask about real police officers in the area and where they are to see if there is a real one behind me or an imposter.

    -Kayla

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  5. Austin,
    The discussion in your post reminds me of the movie Lets Be Cops. In the film, they dress up for Halloween and are mistaken for real officers. They decide that they like the way they were treated and felt in the uniforms so they decide to continue the charade, and of course a love interest is involved in their reasoning. It was so easy for them get away with, they were even able to fool other officers, to an extent. This at times has been a concern for me, especially when we think how easy this could be, not only for police, but also other government agents. I appreciate that you provided ways to possibly identify real vs. fake officers. #77 is the phone number I found on a website recently that is also another way to confirm if you are getting pulled over by a real officer. I have also heard that as long as you aren’t committing any illegal acts in the process, if you are on a dimly lit road with very little traffic, most officers will understand if you continue to a well-lit or populated area before pulling over, for your own safety. Thank you for posting about this.

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  6. Austin,

    Thanks for sharing! Interestingly, I was actually just talking to one of my friends about this and about how to tell a fake officer from a real one. She suggested calling a non-emergency police line to confirm that an officer is legit, but your tips for identifying a real badge versus a fake badge are very helpful and seem like they would be much more convenient! Considering how easy it is to get fake ids, I am not surprised that there is a problem with fake police badges or that they can look so realistic! I know that people often impersonate police officers to make a statement, not just to commit crime, which may be especially common now in the heat of BLM and tensions between police and communities. Hopefully the encouragement of community policing will decrease the frequency of people impersonating police officers, but in the meantime police impersonations could increase the tension. Again, thank you for sharing!

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  7. Great blog post.

    Yes, surprisingly, it’s somewhat easy to impersonate a police officer, especially if civilians do not know what they’re looking for. There are similar problems in the United States military. Thrift stores and surplus stores frequently sell pieces and whole uniforms to any individual who is willing to buy them. You don’t need a military identification because it is assumed that only military personnel will enter the stores.

    I have walked into a military surplus store and had a set of identification tags printed because I needed a new pair before returning to training. I did not need to show a military identification for this process. Civilians have the ability to do the exact same thing.

    Unfortunately, individuals who are excluded from law enforcement recruitment, or “wanna-bes”, tend to dress the part in hopes that civilians take them seriously. This is referred to as “stollen valor” and there are many entertaining videos of this on YouTube. Thanks for the post!

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  8. This is a very important topic and I think that a lot of people do not know their rights when it comes to police interactions. I really liked how you turned your blog post and stories into information that people should know! I think that the sad reality is that we often do not even think twice when in the presence of an officer. Our first thoughts are “What did I do wrong?” or “Who is in trouble?” We instantly put blame onto ourselves and do not step back to think that maybe we did not do something wrong and that we should be questioning their motives. I also liked how you brought up the instance of being pulled over. My parents have always told me that if I am being pulled over and I am in the middle of nowhere they would rather me continue to drive until someone I felt comfortable and deal with the repercussions then as opposed to stopping my car and becoming a vulnerable target. It’s sad that this is the way we should think and approach situations, but it’s the sad truth. Not all people are good people and they are willing to go to any length to get what they want.
    Overall, great post!

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  9. Austin, thank you for the insight on this issue. Its something I never really gave much thought to because its hard to think about someone impersonating a police officer because lets be honest that takes some balls. And many people will just go through the motions and not question the authenticity of a police officer. But, I think that you gave a lot of good tips here for checking to see if a police officer is the real deal or not. There have been stories from my hometown of people impersonating not only police officers but people who would knock on doors to pave someone’s driveway and would eventually pull guns on homeowners and take whatever money they can find from them. I also hate when I see people driving the old police cars that they bought from auctions that still have the spotlights on them because I always think they’re a police car driving behind me. (Just a random thought).

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