FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – Franklin officers are giving tips to the public on how to spot police impersonators.
Sergeant Charles Warner explained to News 2 how some use fake badges to fool others.
“Badges can be bought online; they can be bought at stores. This is a symbol of trust and authority, but unfortunately, there are people out there that exploit those things,” explained Warner.
If in doubt of whether an officer is real or not, Sgt. Warner recommends asking the officer for a second form of identification.
“A real police officer will never ever become upset about authenticating who they are. It’s for our protection; it’s for your protection,” he said.
Warner went on to say that officers often carry identification with a picture of themselves on it.
According to Warner, people should be suspicious of a single blue light placed on a dashboard since blue lights can be purchased at stores or even downloaded onto smart phones.
“On a real, unmarked police car, there’s a wide variety of installed lights. It’s not just a light thrown up in the dash, [they] are professionally installed lights.”
Warner said if you are being pulled over and are unsure whether the police officer is real, “turn your flashers on, acknowledge that you see the officer behind you, slow down to a very minimal speed, and pull over into a well-lighted area: a business, a residential area, somewhere where there are people around that increases your comfort level.”
Drivers should then call 911 and ask the dispatcher for confirmation that a real officer has pulled them over.
On Thursday, Spring Hill police arrested an alleged police impersonator, Richard LaPenna, who was previously arrested on similar charges in Franklin.
LaPenna, the alleged police impersonator, reportedly told McDonalds workers her was an officer to get free food.
Sgt. Warner said, “Police officers are servants of the public. Anyone that goes in a business demanding special treament because of their place in the law enforcement community is either not with the law enforcement community or shouldn’t be.”