Newschannel 6 Exclusive: Fake Cops, Real Crimes

Many drivers have experienced getting pulled-over by law enforcement officers. The process of getting identification ready to present is all but routine.  But a growing crime trend may present a new challenge for Texoma drivers: Identifying potential fake cops.

In 2007, Wichita Falls Resident Melissa Brinson was driving on the Kell Freeway when she noticed she was being followed by a man in a SUV. Brinson pulled-into a parking lot at Barnett Road, and the man pulled in behind her.  He approached  her car and presented a law enforcement badge. The man took her driver's license and told Brinson that he had a marked patrol car en route to the location.

Brinson recalls the event, "When I asked him for my driver's license back, he said I have a marked car coming and you're not moving." The man turned out to be an imposter.

Monte Jack Duwe was later arrested for Impersonating a Public Servant. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a fine. However, officials say the charge is considered a Class Three Felony in Texas. The charge could have carried a sentence of up to ten years in prison.

Wichita Falls Crime Prevention Officer Jeff Hughes says there are things drivers can look for to spot a potential imposter.  "Police officers are professional individuals… look at the way they handle themselves and the way they identify themselves. (Law Enforcement Officers) are required by State Law to have an identification issued and approved by our agency" explained Hughes.

Pastor Lenard Brothers of Wichita Falls encountered a fake cop on a trip to East Texas. "He ask too many silly questions that did not amount to what I was being stopped for" said Brothers who later identified the man as an imposter by an obviously fake badge.

The problem of spotting an imposter may be more difficult in some situations. Genuine law enforcement supplies including badges, uniforms and emergency equipment are readily available over the Internet.

Determining the status of a Police Officer is simple, according to Officer Hughes. "State Law does require the ID card to actually have the number of the entity that licenses them and has their commission, you know the agency for which they work. If somebody does feel uncomfortable feel free to ask for that identification and call that number if you want to verify that the person is actually who they say they are."

Hughes explains that in an emergency situation, citizens can call 911 and have the dispatcher verify that the person they are encountering is legitimate.  Still, the chance of someone obtaining official-looking equipment over the Internet is disturbing to many Texomans we spoke with. Brittanie Perez, 15, Olney, is a student driver. She was shocked that a Texas Rangers patch was readily available for sale. "I think they should check into who is buying those", said Perez.