Police tools — blue lights, badges, batons — are easier than ever to buy on the Internet, and impersonators’ methods are frighteningly effective, says the Boston Globe. Police say it takes very little to persuade motorists and others to obey commands from someone they believe is a police officer. Two weeks ago, a man with a two-way radio clipped to his shirt ordered pedestrians to put their hands on a wall and give him their wallets. He grabbed their cash, dumped the wallets, and drove away. Working with another man with a badge hanging around his neck, the two robbed five people. Early Sunday morning, a burly man with a crew cut used a flashing blue light on his car to stop a driver. Police say the man, wearing a blue shirt emblazoned with a shield, ordered the woman out of her vehicle, then sexually assaulted her .
While some pursue nothing more than the thrill of using a police officer’s authority to get someone to pull over, others exploit the power of the badge to rob and assault, often targeting women, immigrants, and others they believe will be most likely to obey their orders. Police – gear vendors typically require identification from would-be buyers to prove they work for law enforcement, but say the proliferation of online sales of official equipment has made it much easier for people to get the trappings to impersonate an officer. Said Paul Barry, president of Doughboy Police and Fire Supply, “The person that gets the order on the telephone is just taking the order, and they don’t know if they’re sending it to Lee Harvey Oswald or a police officer. There’s no checking. They don’t ask for ID.”