June 04, 2004

Want Another Reason Not to Hand Your Gun Over to the Cops?

Officials seek info on cop impersonator
The sheriff's office is looking for witnesses and possible victims of a police impersonator.
At 11:50 p.m. on May 20, a 17-year-old girl was driving near Coal Mine Avenue and Pierce Street when an unmarked car pulled behind her and flashed its emergency lights, prompting the teenager to pull over.
A second car pulled in behind the "police" car. A woman got out and started walking toward them.
The alleged police officer, apparently startled by the appearance of the woman, drove off.
Officials want to talk to the woman, whose car could be a dark-colored sedan, possibly a Mercedes.
Anyone who might have information is asked to call 303-271-5653.

That's from the Rocky Mountain News June 3rd Briefing.

There's more...

The Denver Post ran this story on not one but three seperate incidents of police impersonation.

"Recent police impersonation cases in Aurora, Brighton and Jefferson County were not committed by the same person, officials said Thursday.
Authorities had investigated possible connections among the three cases in which police emergency lights were used to pull people over, said Jefferson County sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Tallman."

So if the conclusion of the cops is right what we have is at least three different people in three different areas pretending to be cops.

"Tallman said the cases are potentially very dangerous.
Someone could be kidnapped and murdered, like Fort Collins resident Lacy Miller was last year, she said."

That's because we are told from the time we're young to trust the cops & do what they say. If we question that people advise to do what the cops say anyway & starighten everything out in court.

"Several weeks ago, a 56-year-old woman was stopped by a white car with flashing lights. A man in his late 20s and another man in his early 20s came up to her car and threatened to arrest her if she did not give them money."

Course from that description they might have very well been cops. After all, most traffic stops do result in a ticket, which is nothing more than the government demanding money at the threat of arrest.

But unmarked patrol cars being as common place as they are doesn't help matters. People don't think it's unusual for an unmakred car to pull someone over.

"On May 10, a man posing as a police officer in Aurora stole a wallet from another man, police spokesman Rudy Herrera said."

I wish more details were given about this one. It could have just been a simple scam, or it could have involved a guy dressed like a cop.

We often think it only happens in foreign countries, with Mexico among the most frequently thought of examples, but there are areas of this county where a cop will pull you over or stop you, tell you about some offense real or imagined, & give you the choice of handing over $X or him taking you to jail. So it's arguable that people generally don't see this as much of a surprise & don't report it thinking it was a real cop.

"On May 20, a 17-year-old girl was driving near West Coal Mine Avenue and South Pierce Street just before midnight when she saw what she thought was an unmarked police car in the lane next to her.
The man pulled in behind her, activated the vehicle's emergency lights, and she pulled over, Tallman said.
As he approached her car, a woman stopped behind his car and walked toward them. The impersonator seemed startled, jumped back in his car and drove away."

This is the one I first posted. Again, an unmarked car will not really register an alarm with a lot of people because they're fairly common.

I've also heard of home invasions taking place where the invaders yell "Police" or "DEA" as they bust in. (That's not counting the people who commit home invasions & steal property while claiming that their ATF employment allows them to do so.)

The most solid advice I can give is to verify the identity of anyone who attempts to pull you over or otherwise detain you. If they have a uniform on they're probably a cop, but then again some impersonators have had uniforms on: they're not that hard to get.

If an unmarked car attempts to pull you over throw on your hazards & drive at a reasonable pace (i.e. don't speed but don't do 10 under the speed limit) to a well lit & preferably populated area. This might piss off the cop but it's better to risk that than have a happy cop impersonator at your window on a dark & lonely road.

When the cop approaches you ask him/her for I.D. Again this will probably aggrevate them but better to have them ticked than to be conned. I wouldn't hand my I.D. over until they established their identity. Explain you'll comply with any lawful request but first you need to make sure he/she is really a cop. Bring up the police impersonation stories if they seem reluctant. Most honest cops won't mind this too much. Some states even have laws providing that a cop must show proof of identity when asked. So ask for I.D. even if it causes the cop aggrevation. Hell, ask for it because it causes the cop aggrevation. If they think they're above showing I.D. while demanding yours then they deserve to be aggrevated.

This is where certain lawyers, some of them sympathetic, will disagree with me.

If a cop tells you to do anything extremely harmful your Rights, such as hand over your firearm (I assume you carry) politely refuse. This applies to real cops for reasons of principle, but doubly so to anyone who you might doubt is a real cop for more practical reasons. The lawyers in question will say that it's dangerous to do this. They'd advise doing whatever the cop asks & waiting till you can get a lawyer to straighten things out in court. But for me there is no court that can correct certain violations. I'm sure even the lawyers would tell you if a cop demands you perform oral sex on him to refuse. I could be wrong but I think it's safe to say that they'd draw the line there. I just draw my line at a different place. I've went over some of the principled reasons in a previous post. The practical reasons you should be able to guess. After all, if a person fakes being a cop to pull you over then being disarmed might make things too easy for him & much worse for you.

There are a lot of areas where reforming the system would help things. Eliminating unmarked patrol cars & no-knock warrants would be a decent start. Reversing the immoral practice of an "officer safety" frisk would be a plus, as would a number of other things.

But since the government doesn't give up power too easily (& cops are, for better or worse, agents of government) be careful of who you allow to detain you & what you do while detained. The odds are greatly in favor of the car that pulls you over containing a real cop. But I never liked playing the odds. Hell, I'm usually more worried about cops than criminals. At least what a criminal tries you can resist without having the weight of government thrown at you. Well, until we follow England's fine example that is.

Posted by Publicola at June 4, 2004 04:14 AM

Would it be advisable to ask for the cop's ID, and then use one's cellphone to call up the department that supposedly issued that ID and verify that that person does in fact work for the department? After all, how do I know what a real cop's ID card looks like? It could have been forged, or stolen, or the guy in question could have been fired from the department for cause, so his ID is no longer valid.

Okay, maybe I'm being paranoid. But am I paranoid *enough*?

Posted by: Erbo at June 4, 2004 09:52 AM

Odds are most impersonators wouldn't feel they had to go to the trouble of faking a department i.d. Most people wouldn't dream of asking for a cop's credentials & f they did much huffing & puffing would probably be how they dealt with it.

But calling to verify I.D. is a good thing. Though it will piss the cop off if you care about that sort of thing.

So yeah, if you have any doubts call & verify.

Posted by: Publicola at June 4, 2004 02:44 PM

There was an incident in Central Illinois quite a few years ago wherein a pair of young men got ahold of a flashing red light, and were out goofing off with it. I don't recall that this was their original intent, but they wound up raping and murdering a young woman.

Posted by: triticale at June 6, 2004 08:57 PM

Just to follow through on your hypothetical, so we're all on the same page....

A cop stops you on the street to ank you some questions. He establishes his identity to your satisfaction. Upon discovering that you are armed, he asks you to hand over your weapon. You tell him, "I do not believe that you have a legal right to take my weapon. I therefore refuse." The cop informs you that it was not a request, he is ordering you to hand over your weapon. He unbuttons the thumbbreak on his holster. You repeat, "I refuse." At that point, he tells you, "You're under arrest."

What happens next?

Posted by: Spoons at June 7, 2004 09:36 AM

I resist.

Posted by: Publicola at June 9, 2004 04:20 AM

Yeah, that's what I thought.

You're willing to kill a cop, and quite possibly bystanders, because of a your disagreement with him over the law (a disagreement which you are very likely incorrect about, in many cases). That's irresponsible. Worse, it's deeply immoral.

I like to think that you're just talking tough on this, and wouldn't actually do something as reckless as you suggest. Barring that, I pray to God that you never find yourself in that type of situation. You'd set back the gun rights movement 100 years.

Hell, if I thought that any significant proporation of the gun-owning community felt as you say you do, I'd support gun control myself.

Posted by: Spoons at June 9, 2004 08:50 AM

"I resist" was my answer. I didn't elaborate. I coudl have just as well meant passive resistance as I could active. You're jumping the gun a bit (so to speak0 by equating any form of resistance with a desire to kill a cop.

As far as the law goes, in Co under the right circumstances sefl defense can be used to refute resiting arrest. Please see http://www.ccdb.org/furman1.htm .
I also recall a SCOTUS case where they revrsed & remanded a case which involved a person using force to resist an unlawful arrest. I'll let you know when I find the case & a link to it.

s for it being immoral - I disagree. It's not immoral to resist an immoral act, & an unlawful arrest (where you know the arrest is unlawful) is immoral.

Here's a hypo for you: if a cop broke his thumbstrap open & told you to blow him, would you consider resisting that order to be immoral? Or would you advise to swallow some pride (among other things) & call upon a lawyer to remove the bad taste from your mouth? Would resisting that be immoral as well?

& if you would support gun control because people started to assert their Rights, then why don't you support it now? If you'd make a change in your beliefs because a certain percentage of a group started behaving in a way which you wouldn't approve, then why is it dependent upon a certain percentage? Wouldn't the Davidians or the Weavers (who used force to resist cops) be enough to make you change your mind if it's that dependent upon practical considerations?

I don't wish for anyone to support gun control, but most of the people who oppose gun control do so on matters of principle that are a little deeper set than agreeing with the majority of gun owners. I assume you're not wholeheartedly behind your statement but if you are I'm most curious as to why.

Posted by: Publicola at June 9, 2004 03:45 PM
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