Fort Collins Police advise how to spot police impersonators

Ceci Taylor

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In response to a recent police impersonation case, Fort Collins Police Services advised citizens and community members on how to spot an impersonator and how to deal with the situation.

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Last month, a woman reported a man impersonating a police officer in Fort Collins after she was pulled over by an unmarked vehicle. The man then approached her parked car and asked her to step outside. The woman said she was suspicious because he was not in uniform, so she asked to see his ID.

When he refused to comply, she drove away and called 911. Officers searched the area but were unable to find the unmarked car or the man who pulled her over. Dispatchers were also able to confirm that no actual police officers stopped anyone’s vehicle in the area.

“(Cases like this one) happen fairly infrequently,” Sgt. Matt Johnson of the FCPS. “But it is something we want people to be aware of.”

Johnson said there are certain things to look out for when being pulled over by a police officer.

“Always look for ID on the car first,” he said. “If the person isn’t in uniform, or is acting uncomfortable and doesn’t know what they’re doing, it might be suspicious.”

Johnson also said that it’s important to ask for credentials if you suspect someone is pretending to be a police officer, as every officer should be able to confirm their identity.

“Be sure to read up on safety tips as well,” he said.

FCPS posted information and safety tips on their Facebook page following the incident in Fort Collins. These tips advise citizens to call 911, turn on hazard lights and drive to a well-lit public area.

In a Facebook video posted by FCPS, Johnson said that turning on your hazards lets the person pulling you over know that you are aware of their presence and that you will comply once you drive to a more public place. He also said that it can alert other people about what’s happening.

Commenters on the FCPS Facebook page expressed concerns about undercover officers pulling citizens over. 

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“This is exactly why it should be illegal for cops to use undercover patrol,” Levi Riggs, a Fort Collins resident commented. “Undercover cars should be used for undercover work.”

FCPS responded to Riggs’s concerns.

“We do have some units that drive unmarked vehicles,” FCPS replied in the post. “However, if you’re stopped by an unmarked FCPS vehicle, the officer will clearly identify him/herself and provide identification.”

Cases like these are specifically relevant to Fort Collins after 20-year-old Lacy Miller was pulled over by a man impersonating an officer and was murdered 16 years ago. Since then, measures have been taken to increase the punishment of those who impersonate officers.

Lacy’s Law made impersonating a police officer a felony and it criminalized the use and possession of police lights. This means there is now harsher punishments, and those who are caught must pay a higher fine and may serve longer jail time. Owning police lights now results in a misdemeanor.

Although it doesn’t happen often, FCPS reminds citizens it’s important to stay alert and take every safety measure when being pulled over by a police officer.

Collegian reporter Ceci Taylor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @cecelia_twt.