Officers Say Police Imposters Hurt Relationship Between Law and Public

In less than 24 hours three people feel victim to criminals pretending to be police officers. In Ocean Springs a man who said he was an officer kidnapped a woman. That same day two men impersonating police swindled an elderly Jackson couple out of 40 thousand dollars. Officers say people shouldn't be afraid to ask questions if they have doubts about someone's claim to be with the police. Coast police say if a uniformed officer in a marked car pulls you over you can reasonably trust the person is a legitimate police officer. However, officials say people should be cautious if approached by someone who says he's an officer but is not clearly identified

Captain. Terry Harris of the Ocean Springs Police Department said "If an unmarked car pulls up and a person in plain clothes approaches you you should never be afraid to ask for credentials ask to see their police credentials and their badge and identify themselves."

Police officials say every officer is required to carry a badge and a picture identification. If someone is hesitant or refuses to show i.d., chances are that person is not an officer. Officials say there are other signs of an impostor.

"If he says I need to take or commandeer your vehicle because I've got this problem that should be a red flag right there cause we do not commandeer vehicles contrary to what we see on tv police shows," said Sgt.. Jackie Rhodes of the Biloxi Police Department.

Officers say police imposters make communities reluctant to trust and cooperate with police.

"There's such a public trust in this job is that it really harms us as the police community dealing with the public when somebody that's not apart of our organization violates that trust that we have with the public," said Harris.

Officers say it makes them angry when criminals break that trust by taking advantage of the people they are trying to protect. Under state law, police impersonation is considered a misdemeanor. Anyone convicted of the crime could face a fine of up to 500 dollars and 6 months in jail. That does not include any felony charges for crimes committed while the suspect is posing as a police officer.

by Danielle Thomas