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Can you be charged for impersonating a law enforcement officer...while being a cop?


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  • Can you be charged for impersonating a law enforcement officer...while being a cop?

    What if a certified police officer with a department, one day travels to a different state, sees a crime being committed while off duty, and stops the suspects and claims to be part of a police department despite not working there or even being certified by that particular state. Any civilian would be charged for impersonating, but what about a cop pretending to be with a different department?

  • #2
    And this happened where..?
    Now go home and get your shine box!


    • #3
      In most states if you falsely claim to be a peace officer and perform an act using that false authority you are impersonating a peace officer. Laws vary from state to state and there are states where merely saying you are an officer, without any act under color of authority, is a crime. Most of those eventually get struck down on free speech grounds, similar to stolen valor laws.

      Often that is slightly modified in practice for officers who act outside their jurisdiction, since its ingrained in our training to inform suspects that we are police officers as part of the confrontation.

      That is all very different than actually claiming to be a member of a local department when you aren’t. If someone not a member of my department made a clear and unambiguous claim that they were a member, that would get an impersonating charge from me absent some extraordinary explanation.

      Claiming to be A police officer or part of A department is fine... you are. The problem arises when you assert something that isn’t true.

      It’s also true that most states have private persons arrest statutes, and even those that don’t have the concept in common law. So even making an arrest is perfectly fine. I’ve actually done that in a nearby jurisdiction, when I found a guy living in my RV on a storage lot.

      So, if I’m driving cross country and walk into an armed robbery in progress in Elko, NV when I draw my weapon I’ll probably announce “police” and take whatever action seems necessary. Most places wouldn’t deem that impersonating. If for some reason I tell everyone I’m an Elko officer and direct them to do things in that supposed capacity, then I’m impersonating.
      Last edited by tanksoldier; 11-21-2020, 01:48 PM.
      "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

      "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet


      • #4
        There is also 'making a citizens arrest under color of law'. As a Fed, I could not enforce state or local laws. But if I saw a State crime committed, I would identify myself as "Police', display my badge, and take the perp into custody. I never had to explain this in court. We only used this for felonies or crimes where there was a risk of death or serious bodily harm - like the drunk driver I stopped who almost hit several cars.

        We taught the use of 'Police' , because it is understood by most people, even non-english speakers. We used 'Police, Federal Officer', as it was more comprehensible and shorter than 'U.S. Treasury Department, U.S. Customs, Office of Investigations!' Once the person was in custody, we would explain who we were. Plus in some countries, their Customs officers did NOT have arrest authority.
        "A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of better men than himself."
        John Stuart Mill


        • #5
          Was going to say what Tank said.

          Now I have had a couple of jail officers here about push the line when identifying themselves as law enforcement.

          One of them was from two counties over, off duty wearing a department polo shirt, with a gun and a badge on his belt like he was a detective. Had a sheriff department hat in the back window of his car. Real whacker type!

          Had a citizen make complaint on him because he looked suspicious. If you were to imagine the stereotypical impersonator / molester/ rapists type that's what he looked like. Called the sheriff's office he worked for and they confirmed he worked for them in the jail and didn't sound suprised to hear what he was doing.


          • Aidokea
            Aidokea commented
            Editing a comment
            Yeah, I've encountered more than one jailer that wanted people to think they were a cop. Real nut-jobs...

        • #6
          Usually people are charged with impersonation of police officer when they do it to commit another crime, not to stop one.
          Last edited by BNWS; 11-21-2020, 10:05 PM.


          • #7
            Yea gotta wonder why a guy off duty and out of state/jurisdiction would get involved and then ID themselves as a local instead of just calling in the crime....unless it's a legit life or death then "Police" works. Usually, in my experience, legit guys don't do this kind of stuff....it's the wannabes.


            • BNWS
              BNWS commented
              Editing a comment
              You also gotta wonder who would care except for the guy that got arrested..

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