A 17-year-old in a Broward, Fla., Sheriff’s Office getup played pretend cop for two months, pulling drivers off an interstate highway and issuing warnings, the Miami Herald reports. Yevheniy Babenko’s alleged motive was to impress his buddies and his girlfriend, a criminal-justice student who thought he was a real lawman. He allegedly admonished motorists to drive slower, but didn’t write tickets because he had none; detectives said he had an authentic-looking metal clipboard. He also had a police-style blue dashboard strobe light, handcuffs, and fake business cards, although alert motorists might have been puzzled by the Michigan tags on his car.
The girlfriend persuaded him to turn in the equipment to the real police. Detectives said he claimed he bought the items at a garage sale and was turning them in to ensure they didn’t “fall into the wrong hands.” Investigators determined that the gear was obtained legally from Broward police supply stores and from an auto parts store.
Detectives said anyone is allowed to buy the supplies if they don’t use them to impersonate an officer. The owner of a store who sells police equipment to the public said merchants won’t sell police equipment to an obvious fraud. “We’re all ex-cops in this business,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is put law enforcement materials in the hands of the bad guys.” Babenko managed to buy black T-shirts with Broward Sheriff’s Office stenciled in orange lettering, black pants, black boots, a black cap.
In Colorado, a new law toughens the penalties for impersonating a police officer and criminalizes the use or possession of red and blue lights. It might save someone from becoming another Lacy Miller, her mother said yesterday, the Denver Post reports. Said Wendy Cohen: “If this had been in effect two years ago, Lacy would be alive.”
“Lacy’s Law” was prompted by the 2003 abduction and murder of 20-year-old Miller, a student at the University of Northern Colorado, by a man impersonating a police officer. Jason Clausen, 22, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Miller’s death and is serving a life sentence. The law makes impersonating a police officer a class 6 felony; before, it was a class 1 misdemeanor. A class 6 felony results in increased jail time for habitual offenders and fines as high as $100,000.