HOW TO SPOT SOMEONE IMPERSONATING A POLICE OFFICER

Obstruction, impersonation, and disarming a peace officer are all separate crimes in Colorado

Lawton, OK (KSWO). The Lawton Police Department is sharing tips on what to do if you believe someone is impersonating a police officer. This comes after a Lawton man was charged today for committing that crime last week. On Saturday, police said they spotted 32-year-old Robert Powell in an SUV with red and amber lights trying to pull over a car on Rogers Lane. Police tried to stop him, but say he sped off and eventually crashed before running away. After he was caught, police connected him to pulling over a woman named Echo Stevenson last Thursday.


Police said when you are able to do so in a safe area, get on your cell phone, call 911, and tell them you feel like something suspicious is going on. You can ask them to verify the officers name, or badge number to make sure the traffic stop is legit. "Tell the person tell the officer if it is a police officer. Tell them I want to make sure this is a real traffic stop. I'm going to call dispatch and verify and you have that right to do so," said Jenkins.

Obstructing, Impersonating and Disarming a Peace Officer in Colorado

Obstruction, impersonation, and disarming a peace officer are all separate crimes in Colorado. A peace officer has the authority to enforce all laws of the state of Colorado while acting in their scope of authority.1 In Colorado, a peace officer generally includes police officers, sheriff's deputies, and state troopers. A peace officer includes a police officer in uniform, or out of uniform if they have identified themselves as a peace officer by showing their credentials.


What is obstructing a peace officer? C.R.S. 18-8-104

Obstructing a peace officer is hindering, obstructing, or impairing a peace officer's ability to enforce the law or preserve the peace. Obstruction could occur through the use of violence, force, physical interference, or any obstacle. Obstruction also includes impairing the work of a firefighter, emergency medical service provider, or even a law enforcement dog. 2


Penalties for Obstructing, Impersonating and Disarming a Peace Officer in Colorado?

There are separate penalties associated with obstructing, impersonating, or disarming a police officer. Obstruction of a peace officer is generally a misdemeanor level; however, disarming or impersonating a police officer are felony criminal offenses.


What are the penalties for obstructing a police officer?

Obstructing a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel is a class 2 misdemeanor offense. If a person is found guilty on this charge, they will face jail time between 3 and 12 months, and fines between $250 and $1,000.


What are the penalties for impersonating a police officer?

Impersonating a peace officer is a class 6 felony offense. The penalties for a Class 6 felony conviction in Colorado include 12 to 18 months in jail and fines between $1,000 and $100,000. It may also require a mandatory parole period of 1 year.


What are the penalties for disarming a police officer?

Disarming a peace officer is a class 5 felony offense. If a person is convicted of disarming a police officer, they may face imprisonment from 1 and 3 years and fines between $1,000 and $100,000. It may also result in a mandatory parole period of 2 years.


What are defenses to Colorado obstructing, impersonating, and disarming a peace officer charges?


An individual facing criminal charges for obstructing, impersonating, or disarming a peace officer may be able to raise defenses to these charges to avoid a conviction.


Obstructing A Peace Officer Defenses

The crime of obstructing a peace officer relies on a person knowingly engaging in an obstructive or hindering activity. Some defenses to these charges include:

  • You did not knowingly obstruct the peace officer's duties
  • You did not engage in any activity that would have obstructed the peace officer's duties
  • You did not physically interfere with the peace officer or firefighter

It is not a defense to obstruction charges that the peace officer was acting in an illegal manner, so long as the officer was acting “under color of his or her official authority.” Even if the officer is later shown to be in-the-wrong, it is not a defense to obstruction if the officer makes a decision in good faith based on surrounding facts and circumstances that he or she must act to enforce the law or preserve the peace.5

Related Offenses

There are other behaviors that are considered criminal offense which often arises when citizens interact with the police. These related offenses include:

  • Resisting arrest
  • Disorderly conduct

Resisting Arrest C.R.S. 18-8-103

Resisting arrest involves knowingly preventing or attempting to prevent a peace officer (who is in uniform or who has identified as law enforcement) from effecting an arrest. This includes preventing the arrest through the use of violence, threats, or any other means which create a substantial risk of causing bodily injury to the officer or another. Resisting arrest is a class 2 misdemeanor.


Disorderly Conduct C.R.S. 18-9-106

Disorderly conduct is a broad offense that includes many vague violations, such as disturbing the peace, fighting, or acting recklessly in public. This includes making unreasonable noise in public, making offensive comments, gestures or displays, and displaying a firearm in public. Depending on the circumstances, disorderly conduct can be charged as a petty offense or misdemeanor.

HOW TO SPOT SOMEONE IMPERSONATING A POLICE OFFICER

The Four Methods Used To Spot A Wannabe Cop

Understanding Police Impersonation - Spotting Police Impersonators at Your Home - Identifying Police Impersonators During Traffic Stops - Recognizing Police Impersonators Online 

Method One of Four

Understanding Police Impersonators


1. Understand why people impersonate police officers. Police officers are afforded a lot of power in order to enforce the laws of a particular state. With that power comes the ability to wear a uniform, carry a firearm, and arrest people should the situation arise. Criminals, who could utilize this perceived power to inflict harm, are always looking for a way to commit crimes without getting caught. Police impersonators often do what they do in order to commit violent crimes, including murder, rape, and burglary.


2. Know how people impersonate police officers. Impersonating a police officer is actually a lot easier than it may seem. With the advent of the internet, anything that can be sold will be. A lot of authentic looking police gear can be found on auction sites, which often allow the sale of police identifiers so long as there is a profit. One study found that a simple online search produced police badges for sale from almost every state, city, and county in the United States.


Impersonators often buy uniforms, badges, utility belts, and vehicle accessories (e.g., lights and decals).

People can even impersonate officers by simply introducing themselves as someone with police authority.


3. Identify who is at risk of being victimized. Police impersonators are often looking for anyone who seems exposed and easily fooled. This means that younger people, as well as the elderly, are most at risk to be victimized by police impersonators. With that said, criminals often commit crimes of opportunity, meaning they may impersonate a police officer in order to commit another crime against anyone that presents an easy target in the moment.


4. Recognize the illegality of police impersonation. Impersonating a police officer is a crime in and of itself. Most laws prohibit a person from identifying themselves as an officer, producing a badge of authority, wearing a uniform with the intent to impersonate an officer, and creating a vehicle that looks like a police vehicle.


However, dressing up in a police costume for fun, for example during Halloween, is not prohibited by law.


Method Two of Four

Spotting Police Impersonators at Your Home


1. Listen for the person's knock and announce. When a police officer comes to your door, they are usually required to knock and announce their presence. In addition to knocking, police are supposed to state their purpose for being there and announce that they are officers of the law.


Impersonators may or may not know about these rules, and therefore an impersonator may not knock and announce themselves as an officer. If someone in a police uniform knocks on your door and does not state their purpose for being there, do not open the door.


2. Resist the urge to open the door. Even if someone in uniform knocks and announces their presence, do not immediately open the door. Ask the person outside to describe the purpose of their visit, and start a dialogue without opening the door. If it is a real officer, they should have no problem explaining their visit and having a conversation through the door until you can verify their identity.


If the person at your door is an impersonator, once you open the door, the barrier between yourself and the impersonator will be gone. Once this happens, the impersonator can get inside where they may want to commit a crime.


3. Look at the person's uniform. While talking to the person through the door, examine the uniform they are wearing.

The clothes themselves should be clean and unwrinkled. Uniforms with stains and uniforms that do not fit properly are good indications of a fake. Also, look for a hat, which is a requirement for police officers in many, but not all, areas.


The uniform will always include a badge, name tag, and service tags. The badge will be made out of metal and will never be plastic or flimsy. Service tags indicate the years of service an officer has had on the force.


Look for a utility belt with all of the tools of the trade. These tools include a flashlight, firearm, handcuffs, taser, bullet magazines, and pepper spray. The utility belt itself is usually made of woven leather.


All officers will carry a radio, so be sure the person you see has one.

Try to identify the officer's citation pad.


4. Ask the person to show their badge and other identification. Once you have examined what the person is wearing, or while you are doing so, ask to see the officer's identification. A trained officer should comply with this request promptly and professionally. The officer should have a badge, identification card, and even a photo ID.


While an impersonator may be able to fake a badge, it is much more difficult to fake a photo ID and police identification card. If the person cannot show you these things, they may be impersonating an officer.


5. Call the police if you have any doubts. If you have any doubt after examining and speaking with the officer, call the police. Dispatchers will know whether an officer has been sent to your home and if they are currently there. The dispatcher will send out a real officer if there is any doubt as to what is unfolding.


Real officers should never be upset if you choose to call the police to verify their identity. This verification process is easy and pain free for the officer, so they should be happy to let you make the phone call. If anyone asks that you not call the police, they may be impersonating an officer.


Method Three of Four

Identifying Police Impersonators During Traffic Stops


1. Know where you are at all times. While you are driving, understand where you are. This includes what city you are in, what road you are driving on, and what direction you are going. If you get pulled over by a vehicle that looks like a police vehicle, you can use the information about your location throughout the rest of your interaction.


If you have to call the police, knowing where you are located will help you explain the situation to the dispatcher.


If you are looking at the person's vehicle, knowing where you are will help you identify the markings on the vehicle in order to ensure they match your location. For example, if you get pulled over in Los Angeles, you want to make sure you aren't being pulled over by a New York police car.


2. Listen for the vehicle's siren. When an officer begins the process of pulling you over, many departments, but not all, require they turn on an audible siren. Listen for the siren and determine whether it sounds legitimate. While different police forces may use different sounds, try to familiarize yourself with those sounds so you can spot improper ones.


Police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances all use different sounding sirens. Impersonators may not know this and may accidentally install the wrong siren.


3. Look at the person's vehicle. One of the easiest ways to spot a police impersonator is to examine their vehicle.

If it looks older or is not running in good condition, it may not be a real police car.


Look for the reflective decals on the sides and the hood of the car. These decals should clearly identify the vehicle as a police vehicle and should include car numbers, a police shield, and police department identifiers.


Identify the warning lights on the police car. Most police cars are equipped with a number of lights that flash colors to warn people of their presence. Police lights are often red and blue. Beware of single white lights or green and yellow lights behind the grill.

Read the officer's license plate. Real police units utilize specialized license plates that identify he vehicle as a police vehicle.


4. Turn on your hazard lights. Before you pull over, especially if you are in a dark area, turn on your hazard lights to inform the vehicle attempting to pull you over that you see them. Trained officers know this means you are acknowledging their presence and that you are not trying to run from them.


5. Pull over in a well-lit and populated area. With your hazard lights still on, drive until you reach a will lit and populated area. Pulling over where people are nearby can help disincentivize a police impersonator from committing a crime against you. Also, if you are in a well lit area, you will be able to examine the person and their actions better.

If you do this, a police impersonator will often drive right by you because they will not want to risk getting caught.


6. Keep your doors locked and only roll down your window enough to communicate. Once you pull over, do not open your door or get out of the car.Stay in the vehicle with your doors locked. Only roll your window down enough to speak to the person outside your vehicle.

If the person puling you over is an impersonator, you do not want to let them gain access to you or your vehicle, which is why you should not open your door or roll your window down all the way.


7. Look at the person's uniform. While talking to the person through the window, examine the uniform they are wearing.

The clothes themselves should be clean and unwrinkled. Uniforms with stains and uniforms that do not fit properly are good indications of a fake. Also, look for a hat, which is a requirement for police officers.


The uniform will always include a badge, name tag, and service tags. The badge will be made out of metal and will never be plastic or flimsy. Service tags indicate the years of service an officer has had on the force.


Look for a utility belt with all of the tools of the trade. These tools include a flashlight, firearm, handcuffs, taser, bullet magazines, and pepper spray. The utility belt itself is usually made of woven leather.


All officers will carry a radio, so be sure the person you see has one.

Try to identify the officer's citation pad.


8. Ask for the person's badge number and other identification. Once you have examined what the person is wearing, or while you are doing so, ask to see the officer's identification. A trained officer should comply with this request promptly and professionally. The officer should have a badge, identification card, and even a photo ID.

While an impersonator may be able to fake a badge, it is much more difficult to fake a photo ID and police identification card. If the person cannot show you these things, they may be impersonating an officer.


9. Call the police. If you have any doubt after examining and speaking with the officer, call the police. Dispatchers will know whether an officer has been sent to your area and if they have actually pulled someone over. The dispatcher will send out a real officer if there is any doubt as to what is unfolding.

Real officers should never be upset if you choose to call the police to verify their identity. This verification process is easy and pain free for the officer, so they should be happy to let you make the phone call. If anyone asks that you not call the police, they may be impersonating an officer.


Method Four of Four

Recognizing Police Impersonators Online


1. Understand when police use the internet. Police officers are now using the internet to aid in their duties. Police are using social media outlets to let citizens know about crimes in progress, to inform citizens of events, and to post pictures of suspects and wanted criminals.


2. Spot vague references to the person's employer. If someone reaches out to you online claiming they are a police officer, you should immediately be concerned. While police often use social media, they are usually using it to reach the masses and not one individual person. When someone reaches out to you, look at their profile and analyze their personal information. A real police officer will have no problem stating who they work for and where they work. On the other hand, an impersonator will often try to hide their true identity. Therefore, an impersonator may hide their employment credentials, which should be a red flag for you.


3. Look for out of place photographs on the person's social media page. An official police or police officer internet page will often include the official's head shot or the official insignia of the police force. Profile pictures Align Justify depicting eagles, flags, or other symbols instead of the person's photo should raise alarms. If photo albums do not contain any real pictures, it might be the profile of an impersonator.


4. Ask for credentials. When you start conversing online with someone claiming to be a police officer, ask for their credentials. A real officer will have no problem providing you with a badge number, name, identification number, and information about the precinct they work for. Once you receive this information, call the police station and ask to verify what you have been told.

If the person you are talking to is unable to provide you with their credentials, you should cease talking to them and contact the police.