Man sought for impersonating cop: 'Don't be afraid to ask for credentials'

Man sought for impersonating cop: 'Don't be afraid to ask for credentials'

EUGENE, Ore. - Eugene police are looking for a man they say pulled a woman over in Eugene last month while pretending to be a cop.

The woman said she pulled over to the side of River Road on June 9 when she saw flashing emergency lights behind her.

The victim says she was asked to take a portable breathalyzer test by a man wearing a blue uniform. The woman said his uniform didn’t have a badge or patch, so she called the police department.

Since that traffic stop there have been similar incidents reported in other districts, said Doug Mozan, the acting captain of the Eugene Police Department.

“We realized that this isn't a misconduct case involving a Eugene police officer this is a potential person out there impersonating one of us,” Mozan said. 

Mozan said the portable breathalyzer test the impersonating officer asked the woman to take is not protocol for Eugene Police.

“We don't have that kind of equipment that we use … in some states they do use those, Oregon isn't one of them where we see it very often,” said Mozan.

Mozan wanted to assure the public that their department is taking these cases seriously, and want to do everything they can to maintain the trust they’ve worked hard to build.

 “Our patches and our logos aren't out there for everybody to have, but you can put together a fairly convincing police uniform through ordinary sources,” Mozan said. “Don't be afraid to ask for credentials, we have nothing to hide.”

Police released information about the case and a sketch of the suspect said to be impersonating an officer on Friday, July 19.

The suspect's uniform did not display any badges or patches identifying a police agency. He was a white male in his late 40s or early 50s. He had brownish hair with very busy eyebrows.

Anyone with information regarding this or another similar incident can please contact Detective Dave Burroughs at (541) 682-5868.

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Helpful Tips for Protecting You from Law Enforcement Impersonators
From the Oregon State Police Dept.

Those who impersonate police officers erode the public’s trust in law enforcement and may endanger unsuspecting people.  There are several tips you can remember to protect yourself during a traffic stop while helping your police officers do their jobs.
 
• Make sure it is a marked police unit.  If it is not a marked unit, the emergency lights should be built in and are usually not a temporary light placed on the vehicle.

• Try to stop in a well-lit area or a location where there are a lot of people present.

• Turn on your emergency flashers but don’t turn off your car.
• Do not get out of the vehicle to meet the officer.  Officers usually don’t like this anyway.

• Lock your door.

• Look for a uniform, official department jacket, and other equipment used by police officers for the performance of their duties.

• If the officer is in plainclothes, look for identifying clothing and equipment.  If unsure, explain to the “officer” that you are unsure about the situation and ask them to display official department identification and badge.  Ask where they work and if you can contact their dispatch center to confirm their identity.  You may also request a marked patrol unit respond.

• Pay attention to what they are asking.  Most officers will advise you of the reason for the stop and request your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.

• If they immediately tell you to get out of the car without any preliminary questions, be suspicious.

• Trust your instincts.  If they don’t seem to be a real police officer they are probably not.

Other Helpful Information:

• There's a law in every state against impersonating a police officer. 

• There is a good reason for this.  Police officers have a lot of power, and we don't want people pretending to be police officers taking advantage of such power. 

• There's also a safety issue. If you're in trouble and seek help from the police, you want the real thing and not someone in a disguise. 

• Impersonating a police officer is usually punishable by prison time, a fine, or both. Moreover, people who impersonate police officers for some criminal purposes usually are charged with those underlying crimes as well. 

• Those who impersonate law-enforcement officers undermine the public’s trust in the men and women charged with protecting us. It is an inexcusable act.

• Large online companies have generally prohibited the sale of law enforcement badges, uniforms and sirens from their Web sites.

• There are people who will attempt to gain a benefit or victimize others by misrepresenting themselves.  This is not something that only occurs with police officers.  But the serious concern is associated with the power, authority, and trust that people believe will not be violated when contacted by someone they believe is a police officer.

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A person commits this crime if with intent to obtain a benefit or to injure, deceive or defraud another the person falsely impersonates a public servant and does an act in such assumed character.  If the criminal impersonation is of a peace officer, judge or justice of the peace, this is a class C felony.
 
Oregon Revised Statute 162.367 – Criminal Impersonation of Peace Officer
 
A person commits this crime if the person uses false law enforcement identification in the commission of an offense.  It is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine up to $125,000.  As used in this statute, “false law enforcement identification” means a badge or an identification card that (a) identifies the possessor of the badge or card as a member of a law enforcement unit; and (b) was not lawfully issued to the possessor by the law enforcement unit.
 
Oregon Revised Statute 162.369 – Possession of False Law Enforcement Identification Card
 
A person commits the crime if the person possesses a false law enforcement identification card that identifies the possessor as a member of a law enforcement unit and was not lawfully issued to the possessor by the law enforcement unit.  It is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,250.