Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is that cop in your rear view mirror really a cop?

Don Van Natta writes in Sunday's editions of the New York Times of a troubling new problem facing South Florida drivers: "In South Florida, seemingly an incubator of law-breaking innovation, police impersonators have become better organized and, most troubling to law enforcement officials, more violent."
A black BMW flashing red and blue lights suddenly filled Alexandria Armeley’s rear view mirror one evening last month. At a stoplight, the BMW’s driver pulled up next to her, waved a gold badge and told her “I’m a cop.”

But Ms. Armeley was suspicious. Before she pulled over, she called her stepfather, Alex Hernandez, a police detective in Biscayne Park, Fla., who warned her that the man was probably not a police officer. Speed away, he told her.

A terrified Ms. Armeley took off and was chased by the BMW for several miles through southern Miami-Dade County. Detective Hernandez had jumped in his car to help and eventually caught up to them.

So the real officer arrested the fake officer, whose name is Daniel A. Barros. Asked why he had tried to pull over Ms. Armeley, a 23-year-old college student, Mr. Barros, 22, told officers, “She was speeding.”

The BMW 7 Series car, outfitted with police lights and a siren, was “lit up like a Christmas tree,” Detective Hernandez recalled about the midnight encounter. “There are a lot of guys walking around with phony badges, but this guy had the whole works. Who knows what he would have done if he had gotten my stepdaughter to stop?”
And in another case,
Last October in Boca Raton, Fla., Andrew Novotak, in his white Crown Victoria with flashing green lights, pulled over motorists and quizzed them about whether they had been drinking alcohol, the police said.

When the police questioned him, Mr. Novotak was wearing a police badge and carrying a loaded gun. He also had a German shepherd in his back seat, which he insisted was a police-trained dog. After arresting him, officers said they smelled alcohol on his breath. He was charged with impersonating an officer and driving under the influence.
So, is that cop pulling you over, really a cop? These days, it seems, it's getting harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

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