Police impersonation is a criminal act which involves falsely posing as part of the police, in order to deceive others. It is an illegal practice in most countries. There are various different ways to impersonate, including using a fake warrant or uniform, or more simply, by declaring oneself as a member of the police. Such a crime is carried out in order to make it easier to commit other crimes, since it serves to add to the criminal’s legitimacy.
While dressing up as a police officer for party purposes is not generally considered to be a crime, all outfits that are worn cannot be official and those wearing them are not allowed to pretend that they are part of the police, or they could potentially face prosecution.
There have been multiple incidents of police impersonation in the past, perhaps most prominently the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, where six mob members were assassinated by a rival gang. Two of the shooters were dressed as police officers. Al Capone was presumed to be linked to the murders, however, no official evidence to convict him was ever found.
In 2007, a 24-year-old New York man was not only caught impersonating a policeman; he had also set up his own fake police station in which to interrogate suspects. Henry Terry purchased equipment such as badges and handcuffs to appear realistic, as well as keeping law enforcement information for reference. He would reportedly “arrest” people for traffic violations, using a car which he had equipped with sirens. The man who portrayed himself as “Sergeant Terry” was hit with a 54-charge indictment and is facing 132 years imprisonment.
Norweigan mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik – who killed 69 people on the island of Utøya in 2011 – had to impersonate a police officer in order to carry out the attacks. The far-right terrorist pretended to be a policeman so that he could take the ferry to the island. Just hours earlier he had bombed government buildings in Oslo, killing eight. Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison in 2012 after being declared sane, but he will likely remain incarcerated for as long as he is deemed a threat to society.
Even Kids Try To Do This Fake Cop Thing?!
Children have also tried to pose as part of the law, and one even got away with it for a time. Vincent Richardson, a 14-year-old, managed to fool everyone – even his colleagues on duty – for five hours in Chicago, until others around him finally had doubts about who he was. Richardson was charged as a juvenile but he has repeated the act several times, and as recently as 2015.
Another sinister police impersonation case resulted in the change of a law. Lacy Miller was driving home when a fake police car, equipped with red and blue flashing lights, pulled her over. Her car was found abandoned but it took a further two weeks to find her body, after which Jean Clausen was arrested for her murder, and impersonation. However, until Miller’s murder, there was no law in place in Colorado that made Clausen’s use of the fake police lights prosecutable – the punishment was just a minor fine – and impersonation itself was just a misdemeanor. Subsequently, ‘Lacy’s Law’ was brought in which made impersonation a felony and the flashing lights a misdemeanor.