Real Cops vs. Bogus Cops: How You Can Tell the Difference

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- "It really angers me, but it's not that uncommon," said Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates.

Yates is talking about the recent arrest of an Alicia man who is charged with one count of rape and criminal impersonation of a police officer.  The Jonesboro Police Department said that 35-year-old Shannon Chamlies is accused, in part, of claiming to be a member of the Jonesboro Police Department's Prowl Unit.

How hard is it to impersonate a police officer?  Police say some badges are easier to duplicate than   others and most people don't know exactly what they're looking for.  Chief Yates said it's not hard to find fake badges on the internet.

"As long as those materials are available on the internet or some of the less than scrupulous vendors it's likely to continue," said Yates.

One thing you can't get your hands on is the identification badges used by the J.P.D.  The badges have two sides and are specific for each officer.  If a person questions the legitimacy of an officer, Yates said they will be able to produce proper I.D.

"It will be an official department I.D. and they're not so easy to duplicate," said Yates.

Yates said some people go very far to perpetrate their crime.

"Allegedly in this case, this guy had his own t-shirts printed up," said Yates.

When someone impersonates an officer it hurts the department's credibility.  But for those who might be unsure about the authenticity of the officer's identity, they are encourage to ask for identification.

"If somebody feels uncomfortable that's being stopped or questioned by a police officer, call 911.  They should be able to confirm it," said Yates.

Yates said a marked police car would be very hard to copy, but there are instances where it's ok to be cautious.  If the car stopping you is an unmarked car, you can go to a well lit public area before stopping.  However, don't turn it into a pursuit.  That's when officers consider it fleeing.

The Arkansas State Police have a similar policy.  They tell Region 8 News that their officers will usually always be in uniform, bur if for any reason an officer isn't in uniform, that officer has a state issued photo I.D. that can be shown.