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Cop or Not? How Do You Know?
DAYTON -- How do you tell the difference between a real police officer and a fake one? It is a felony, yet every so often we see someone hiding behind a fake badge while committing a crime.
"I said 'Granny these aren't no police officers and by the time I said that they were already pulling off,'" said Dayton resident Fred Stroud.
Dayton Police still have not tracked down the two men who robbed 86 year old Stella Wallace's home almost a year and a half ago.
"He was dressed in a black suit with white stripes," Wallace said.
Wallace says at first she didn't let these two men in, but then they showed up with a search warrant, flashed a badge and told her she'd be arrested if they didn't let her in.
"Who's to say what a police officer looks like?" asked her neighbor Stroud who showed up at the perfect time. "Freddy you know they said that somebody robbed the bank downtown and they want to check my house and It just sounded mad shady to me."
The men got away with a couple hundred dollars and a pistol. This is just one of many recent stories of fake cops committing crimes against people. So what are your rights when an officer comes up to you?
"There is no law preventing you from recording an encounter with the police officer," said criminal attorney Jason Cavinder.
He says officers know there are imposters out there so you have the right to play detective as well. First check to see what they have on them. Most officers carry items like a utility belt, a name tag and radio.
"If these things are missing that should trigger your suspicions," said Cavinder. "And never hesitate to request identification from an officer. An authentic police officer will produce and verify their ID if they become aggressive or angry this is a red flag after you requested identification."
"If it's a detective they may be in plainclothes but they will have a badge with them and will have identification with them," said Dayton Lt. Matthew Dickey. "We are not going to get upset if you ask for backup identification or make a phone call before you speak to us."
"If it is an imposter they are going to tuck tail and run when you call 911," said Cavinder. "If it is a real police officer they're going to stand there."
Also, don't just glance at the identification, take a good hard look at it.
"It should not only be a badge but a photo identification linking them to that agency. Be weary of badges or identifications with generic logos such as an eagle or a flag," said Cavinder.
"Usually what happens in these cases is someone has a jacket that just says police on them or security guard," said Dickey. "Those are fairly available on the open market and are not illegal by themselves too own. It is illegal to identify yourself as a police officer."
And yet, people still do it.
"I think it's sad that people don't care anymore that they are willing to rob a defenseless 90-year-old lady," said Stroud. "They can do it to anybody really. I just want to see them get caught."
Obviously the impersonators don't just come to your door, the real bold ones may even try and pull you over while driving.
A couple things you should check for:
-In Ohio, officers must have a marked car.
-The license plate will also be marked.
-Also check to see the condition of the car. Imposters often buy older decommissioned police cars.
-If an officer is in an unmarked vehicle and invites you inside, it's probably a red flag.
-At the end of the day, if you don't feel safe, turn on your hazard lights, slow down and don't pull over until you get to a well lit and populated area. You may have to explain yourself to the officer, but it's better safe than sorry.
-Walk away if they can't prove themselves. Unless you've been placed under arrest or police plan to detain you, then you have every legal right to walk away from an officer when they feel uncomfortable.
-Listen to intuition, address doubts or instincts that suggest something isn't right, especially if you feel endangered.
-It's very rare for officers to ask you to get inside a vehicle and go somewhere with them. Unless the officer has an arrest warrant signed by a judge or probable cause, you are under no obligation to get into an officer's vehicle. It is an optional offer to those who have not committed a crime and are not currently breaking the law.
-It's your legal right to ask questions. Some good questions include: "What precinct do you work for? Who's your sergeant? These are questions that an impersonator will find difficult to quickly make up.
-Officers may approach you to solicit information, but even then, you have the right to consult an attorney before offering any statement or information to police. You don't have to incriminate yourself by giving a statement to police, or become involved in a case by sharing information you are not prepared to divulge. A legal counselor will be able to coach them on their rights as it pertains to the situation.
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