Wannabe police officers can buy uniforms, badges, nightsticks, even rank on the Internet, or maybe from a friendly store that stocks police duds, reports the Christian Science Monitor. While some impersonators buy the products as a gag, others use it to fool people into thinking they are about to be arrested or questioned. Occasionally, fake badges are part of a robbery scheme or worse – in Colorado a woman was raped and murdered after stopping for some flashing blue lights.
Officials worry that the public will lose respect for the police if no one can trust an officer. There are concerns that terrorists may pose as authorities to infiltrate secure areas. New York’s public advocate has called for tougher laws in the city, which prescribes a fine of $100 – less than a parking ticket – and not more than 60 days in jail for unlawful use of uniforms or emblems. Last year, both Arizona and Colorado made it a felony to impersonate police officers. Congress may soon consider legislation that would regulate the sale of fake badges. Police patches can be purchased on the Internet at such sites as Davespatches.com, which says its unloading duplicates from a collection of 10,000 patches.