Why you should always ask police for foto ID ...

shesulsa

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... and be sure your entrances are well-lit. With plainclothes officers making drug and gang busts, if people in black vests and caps, polo shirts and kakhi pants come to your door in the wee hours claiming to be police and shout and urge you to let them in, you might be injured, robbed or worse.

CANOGA PARK, Calif. -- A group of men claiming to be police burst into a house in Canoga Park on Tuesday, pistol-whipped two people inside, and grabbed cash and computers, police said.

Four or five men -- at least one armed with what appeared to be a 9mm handgun -- stormed a house at 7756 Owensmouth Ave. just before 8 a.m., said Officer H. Guzman of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Station.

FULL ARTICLE

This is the kind of thing that happened to a friend of mine in college, only it was much, much worse.

My family plan - welcome to suggestion for improvement:

First, there is no reason for police to come to my door at 3 am. We harbor no criminals, we do no drugs, we are law-abiding citizens. Hence, one adult will be at the door, the children in their assigned locations, another adult on the phone with 911.

Officers will be asked to show foto ID for their department, display their badge so I may read the number - through the peep hole. They will be told we are verifying their authenticity and purpose through 911 before we open the door and that we will fully cooperate with officers of the law.

If there is an evacuation or other emergency, 911 can verify that. If they are down, we will have to make a judgement call.
 

Rich Parsons

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... and be sure your entrances are well-lit. With plainclothes officers making drug and gang busts, if people in black vests and caps, polo shirts and kakhi pants come to your door in the wee hours claiming to be police and shout and urge you to let them in, you might be injured, robbed or worse.



FULL ARTICLE

This is the kind of thing that happened to a friend of mine in college, only it was much, much worse.

My family plan - welcome to suggestion for improvement:

First, there is no reason for police to come to my door at 3 am. We harbor no criminals, we do no drugs, we are law-abiding citizens. Hence, one adult will be at the door, the children in their assigned locations, another adult on the phone with 911.

Officers will be asked to show foto ID for their department, display their badge so I may read the number - through the peep hole. They will be told we are verifying their authenticity and purpose through 911 before we open the door and that we will fully cooperate with officers of the law.

If there is an evacuation or other emergency, 911 can verify that. If they are down, we will have to make a judgement call.

Shesulsa,

Having a direct line to the local police and fire by the phone is also a good thing. I understand 911 for emergencies, yet the response from them in none emergency, and someone impersonating an officer may not be high on their list of emergencies. I know Mike has much better info, but my experience is that a direct call to the local police / police dispatch will get a faster check on if there is an officer dispatched to your location, versus 911 contacting the local dispatch. It takes 911 out of the loop for the three point path and brings it back to two points.

Thanks
 

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Officers will be asked to show foto ID for their department, display their badge so I may read the number - through the peep hole. They will be told we are verifying their authenticity and purpose through 911 before we open the door and that we will fully cooperate with officers of the law.

Makes sense. Your post reminded me of a kiosk I saw at a flea market, where the guy was selling some basic gear that might be used by security guards. Dark jackets that glow on the back. Black caps. He also sold air pistols. With a little ingenuity an evil-doer could easily scam a trusting citizen.

I was once standing in the snow storm and caught a cab right away. I couldn't believe my good luck. Turns out, the cabbie thought I was a cop at first because of the reflective material on my winter coat, so he picked me right up.
 

jks9199

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Shesulsa,

Having a direct line to the local police and fire by the phone is also a good thing. I understand 911 for emergencies, yet the response from them in none emergency, and someone impersonating an officer may not be high on their list of emergencies. I know Mike has much better info, but my experience is that a direct call to the local police / police dispatch will get a faster check on if there is an officer dispatched to your location, versus 911 contacting the local dispatch. It takes 911 out of the loop for the three point path and brings it back to two points.

Thanks
Someone at your door and attempting to gain entry, especially at odd hours, is definitely an emergency. Don't hesitate to call 911.

I do want to address badges and badge numbers, though...

Let me begin by encouraging you to learn what the police uniforms and badges look like. I can tell, by the color of the uniform, and shape of the badge, most of the agencies in my area. And definitely the ones at home. You also need to know whether 911 reaches the police in your jurisdiction immediately; where I work, it won't. It first goes to the county call takers, who handle all the fire/EMS dispatch. You'd need to be sure to identify that you live in my jurisdiction, so that they transfer you to the call taker.

But you'll never see my badge number through a peephole. In fact, you won't find it on my badge if I hand it to you. It's simply not there. My permanent ID number is on my credentials, which also have my picture and identify me as a police officer.

Sadly, as others are noting, lots of police paraphernalia is available without any question about who's buying it. It doesn't hurt to be reasonably vigilant about who's coming up to your door before you open it.

At the same time, you & your kids (of reasonable age) need to be willing to open the door and talk to a cop. One of the most common reasons I used to end up at someone's door when I was patrol was a telephone dialing error... Someone misdials, it goes to 911 as a hang up, and we come out to make sure everything is OK. But there are other reasons why we may end up at your house, even at weird hours. I may be checking on something in your neighborhood, or have noticed your door or car open... or just be checking the area following a crime. Sometimes, I do this at weird hours. If I can identify the hour that something happened -- I may be out at that same hour to see who else might have been up and seen something, for example. Or, shocking as it is, maybe someone lied to me about their home address... and I'm trying to return 'em home. Or I've got your car (or other property) that you didn't know was missing yet. There are lots of reasons why we might be at your house... but like I said, reasonable vigilance is definitely a good idea!

By the way, at least where I work, with the exception of a tac team entry -- who won't be knocking and asking for entry! -- if cops in tac gear/plainclothes are coming for a search warrant, they'll have at least one uniformed officer with them, and visible.

One other point on taking note of uniforms... They can help us figure out who you dealt with, if they were legit, or guide us a bit on the impersonation investigation if they weren't. It's not uncommon for someone to call about a ticket they got or some cop they dealt with, and get the wrong agency. If you tell me they wore a light blue uniform or a grey uniform or a navy uniform, that can help me figure out who you dealt with.
 
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shesulsa

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Shesulsa,

Having a direct line to the local police and fire by the phone is also a good thing. I understand 911 for emergencies, yet the response from them in none emergency, and someone impersonating an officer may not be high on their list of emergencies. I know Mike has much better info, but my experience is that a direct call to the local police / police dispatch will get a faster check on if there is an officer dispatched to your location, versus 911 contacting the local dispatch. It takes 911 out of the loop for the three point path and brings it back to two points.

Thanks

Thanks - 911 here goes to local dispatch and the local precinct here has a phone system that is notoriously unreliable for connecting to a warm body, really, anytime of day or night except through 911. We're actually encouraged to call 911 and state immediately upon connection (non-emergency) and they're very good about responding accordingly.

Someone at your door and attempting to gain entry, especially at odd hours, is definitely an emergency. Don't hesitate to call 911.

I do want to address badges and badge numbers, though...

Let me begin by encouraging you to learn what the police uniforms and badges look like. I can tell, by the color of the uniform, and shape of the badge, most of the agencies in my area. And definitely the ones at home. You also need to know whether 911 reaches the police in your jurisdiction immediately; where I work, it won't. It first goes to the county call takers, who handle all the fire/EMS dispatch. You'd need to be sure to identify that you live in my jurisdiction, so that they transfer you to the call taker.

But you'll never see my badge number through a peephole. In fact, you won't find it on my badge if I hand it to you. It's simply not there. My permanent ID number is on my credentials, which also have my picture and identify me as a police officer.

Thanks for that. I think some here have numbers, others have names on the badge - made as part of the badge, not an expo label stuck to it. I will check for an update to my recollection, though, upon your suggestion; numbers might be out-of-date. But the point to me is to match the custom badge to a picture of the person standing in front of me.

Sadly, as others are noting, lots of police paraphernalia is available without any question about who's buying it. It doesn't hurt to be reasonably vigilant about who's coming up to your door before you open it.

Just about anyone can go into a security and protection supply store and buy whatever you want - or into the gun store. Pretty easy to get there.

At the same time, you & your kids (of reasonable age) need to be willing to open the door and talk to a cop. One of the most common reasons I used to end up at someone's door when I was patrol was a telephone dialing error... Someone misdials, it goes to 911 as a hang up, and we come out to make sure everything is OK. But there are other reasons why we may end up at your house, even at weird hours. I may be checking on something in your neighborhood, or have noticed your door or car open... or just be checking the area following a crime. Sometimes, I do this at weird hours. If I can identify the hour that something happened -- I may be out at that same hour to see who else might have been up and seen something, for example. Or, shocking as it is, maybe someone lied to me about their home address... and I'm trying to return 'em home. Or I've got your car (or other property) that you didn't know was missing yet. There are lots of reasons why we might be at your house... but like I said, reasonable vigilance is definitely a good idea!

During the day and much foot traffic, even in the evening, we are willing to open the door to uniformed officers, especially the ones we recognize. We, for various reasons, recognize the faces, names and departments of a handful of officers in our area. My kids know what city, county and state vehicles and uniforms look like and what the difference is because we discuss it.

By the way, at least where I work, with the exception of a tac team entry -- who won't be knocking and asking for entry! -- if cops in tac gear/plainclothes are coming for a search warrant, they'll have at least one uniformed officer with them, and visible.

I'll look into that as a standard here. Thanks!

One other point on taking note of uniforms... They can help us figure out who you dealt with, if they were legit, or guide us a bit on the impersonation investigation if they weren't. It's not uncommon for someone to call about a ticket they got or some cop they dealt with, and get the wrong agency. If you tell me they wore a light blue uniform or a grey uniform or a navy uniform, that can help me figure out who you dealt with.

Yup - we notice. :D

Thanks!!
 

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The "three guys" in ball caps and jackets with "police" on them arriving at odd hours is different from a full uniform cop with all the medals, badges, vest, duty belt, radio and squad car. Ive come across people demanding to see my ID on car stops in broad daylight, in a full uniform and marked crusier...and they lived in my town.The times I worked plain clothes I never had a problem showing my ID. The situation should dictate your level of wariness IMO.

It never hurts to ask what the police want or are there for before you open up. And know what you are looking at. Looking at an ID that you have no idea the validity of will do you no good. I've had some "ID demanders" just glance at my ID and then let me in, which makes me wonder if they were just doing it to bust my chops.
 
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Carol

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JKS and Arch,

Thank you guys VERY much for pointing out the importance of getting to know the uniform of a LEO. This is not something that I thought of before...and I'm not sure if I would have come up with the importance of this on my own. As I'm learning more about how important (and helpful) this can be, I really appreciate you guys that are "in the know" sharing that. You're helping keep all of us safer, even if we're a wee bit outside your jurisdiction. :D
 

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crooks pretending to be cops

thats just wrong

and the plan sounds like a good one
Unfortunately, it's not original.

And, even worse, gang members have been documented in the military. In fact, it's been documented that some gang members (street gang, white supremacist, and more) have been joining the military expressly to get training on military combat tactics... which rolls into a group of people showing up, looking and acting like they know what they're doing as they prepare for an entry. Not good...

Then there's the issue of the distrust sown by these actions; they further the distrust that often exists and deepen the fissure between the public and law enforcement. I'd almost be tempted to refer to it as a terrorist tactic, depending on who did it...

One more note; earlier I consistently used terms like "reasonably vigilant." Police impersonators happen; they're out there. But they aren't everyday occurrences, either. Some people get so paranoid that they make things unnecessarily hard for the cops who are just trying to do their job. They want ID, they want confirmation from dispatch, they question so much that the cops have trouble doing simple things, which may have been a courtesy -- like informing you of a door that's open.
 
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shesulsa

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Then there's the issue of the distrust sown by these actions; they further the distrust that often exists and deepen the fissure between the public and law enforcement. I'd almost be tempted to refer to it as a terrorist tactic, depending on who did it...

Agreed and well stated.

One more note; earlier I consistently used terms like "reasonably vigilant." Police impersonators happen; they're out there. But they aren't everyday occurrences, either. Some people get so paranoid that they make things unnecessarily hard for the cops who are just trying to do their job. They want ID, they want confirmation from dispatch, they question so much that the cops have trouble doing simple things, which may have been a courtesy -- like informing you of a door that's open.

:asian:

Emotional intelligence involves understanding that there is no black and white but there are lines in the sand. Law enforcement are our friends - generally speaking - and that's what my children *know* ... because they *know* officers. But they also know about tactics that may be used (legally) against them if they get into trouble, how to insist on a lawyer, how to ensure they are talking to a real officer, etcetera. They also know how to be direct but polite. Good skills to have in life regardless, but given your earlier quoted statement, in order to bridge the gap I think it's important to have frank and polite discussion about it.

Thanks for the feedback to all.
 

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I hate to be the bucket of ice water here but....
- Cops executing a no-knock at 3 AM won't pause until they check out. They will detain you until -they- think the situation is under their control.
- In some areas, they may not have a warrant yet.
- They may be legit but at the wrong location. It's happened a number of times before.
- Smart criminals will cut your land line. Cell phones are harder to trace, even with the newer ones GPS locators enabled.

Anyone coming through my door at 3 am uninvited will receive a unpleasant surprise.

Now, if they knock, and there is some communications going on, I'll attempt to verify credentials. I do this all the time....really pisses off the gas company meter reader. :D
 

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JKS9119 said:
But you'll never see my badge number through a peephole. In fact, you won't find it on my badge if I hand it to you. It's simply not there. My permanent ID number is on my credentials, which also have my picture and identify me as a police officer.

He is correct..He don't have number on our badges...
 
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shesulsa

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I hate to be the bucket of ice water here but....
- Cops executing a no-knock at 3 AM won't pause until they check out. They will detain you until -they- think the situation is under their control.

Oh agreed ... I was speaking to those who bother to pound on the door at that ungodly time. They've knocked on the door of a few homes I've stayed at with an arrest warrant for people I've lived with (sigh). See my reply to your later quoted comment below.

- In some areas, they may not have a warrant yet.
And in some areas they are not allowed to storm a house at night without one unless in pursuit or in a hostage situation. Good thing to check out.

- They may be legit but at the wrong location. It's happened a number of times before.

Yep.

- Smart criminals will cut your land line. Cell phones are harder to trace, even with the newer ones GPS locators enabled.

Which is why we have the cells with us 24/7/365.

Anyone coming through my door at 3 am uninvited will receive a unpleasant surprise.

:asian: As will they here.

Now, if they knock, and there is some communications going on, I'll attempt to verify credentials. I do this all the time....really pisses off the gas company meter reader. :D

I've pissed police officers off before for asking for their identification.

Now ask me if I care.
 

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Chiming in late on this. I saw this thread late last night, and saw the questions regarding 911, so I wanted to toss in my .02. :)

In most towns/cities, calling 911 will connect you directly to the PD. This applies from a landline only. There are some cases, where your call will have to be transfered once again though. Calls from a cell phone will vary, depending on the location of the cell phone tower. For example, where I work, if someone calls 911 on a cell, and they're on the highway, there are times my PD will get the call and times when the State Police will get it. Again, it'll vary, and in those cases, it may/may not have to be redirected again.

As for the topic of the thread....this isn't limited to just people pretending to be cops. I've had people call and report that someone came to their door stating they were from the phone company. Fortunately, those people did not open the door and were able to provide some description of the person, direction of travel, any vehicle, etc. I find it very hard to believe that a cable man, phone man, etc. would knock on your door at 3am.

If people will go so far as to buy a Crown Victoria, the standard police car, and rig it up with lights, somehow get ahold of a uniform and pretend to be a cop, pulling people over, nothing surprises me.

My advice is to not open the door to anyone that you're not sure of. The same would apply if you're driving and an unmarked car attempts to pull you over. Call 911. It should not be difficult at all to determine whether or not a legit officer is in the area or at your door.
 

Bob Hubbard

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Crown Vic - see used car lot
Uniform - see surplus shop
Badge - see surplus shop, or internet.
Special Lights - about $80-$200 depending on where you go.
Sunglasses - see the stand at the mall.

I casually know a photographer out west who does interesting shoots of gals in uniforms, all of em legit. Has 2 squad cars and a fire engine as well. Last I heard he was working on getting an ambulance and some military vehicles. So, the stuff is out there and not hard to find really.
 

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If people will go so far as to buy a Crown Victoria, the standard police car, and rig it up with lights, somehow get ahold of a uniform and pretend to be a cop, pulling people over, nothing surprises me.

This happened in my town on halloween this year. (Well 2008, you get my meaning)
 

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Crown Vic - see used car lot
Uniform - see surplus shop
Badge - see surplus shop, or internet.
Special Lights - about $80-$200 depending on where you go.
Sunglasses - see the stand at the mall.

I casually know a photographer out west who does interesting shoots of gals in uniforms, all of em legit. Has 2 squad cars and a fire engine as well. Last I heard he was working on getting an ambulance and some military vehicles. So, the stuff is out there and not hard to find really.
As I understand it... having those colored lights on your vehicle is illegal in most places. Colored as in Blue or Red, if they aren't illegal then presumably they're inoperative. A deputy friend of mine in Salt Lake City says that these (colors) are exclusively reserved for EMS/Police. Anyone with said colored lights on their vehicle and is not LEO/EMS is in a world of trouble if they're caught. Amber/Yellow are generally for tow-trucks or other emergency vehicles and even then they are not to have those lights flashing unless they are actually doing their respective job(s).
Also one shouldn't just be able to buy a badge of a particular agency without first verifying their legal association with said agency, shouldn't they?
I dunno. I'm admittedly ignorant of just what is accessible out there because the thought of trying to impersonate an LEO for any reason is just incomprehensible.
One thing of note: One of my brother's gf's hired a stripper for his birthday... she showed up as an LEO... accompanied by a legitimate Dallas officer in full uniform. Her uniform was also legit except... for her badge. The gun was a water-pistol and everything else was inoperable props. But the presence of a real officer with her probably was two fold, making it more realistic (and surprising when she started her "show") and protecting her from false claims or whatever. T'was interesting.

Cops and paramedics have come to our door at about 10pm one night. I didn't let them in because there was no emergency but I did verify they were actually who they said they were... after all, the uniforms were correct, I recognized one of the parameds personally and ... the lights on their vehicles parked on the street were in full display. I don't think anyone is THAT stupid to call that much attention to themselves if they had less than honorable intentions.
 

Carol

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It is often illegal to mount colored lights on your car. Its not illegal to have it on your shelf. The beacons themselves are easy to find. They may not look exactly like what the local leos use, but if someone were looking for a blue rotating light, they could find it and buy it easily enough
 

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