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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Police Gear Easier to Get than What you Think

From boston.com: Their tools -- blue lights, badges, batons -- are easier than ever to buy on the Internet, law enforcement officials say. And their methods are frighteningly effective. Police say it takes very little to persuade motorists and others to obey commands from someone they believe is a police officer.

Two weeks ago in Chelsea, a man with a two-way radio clipped to his shirt ordered pedestrians to put their hands on a wall and give him their wallets. Then he grabbed their cash, dumped the wallets, and drove away. Working with another man who had a badge hanging around his neck, the two robbed five people, Central American immigrants they believed would be too fearful to report the crimes, police say.

Then early Sunday morning, a burly man with a crew cut used a flashing blue light on his car to stop a driver on Route 24 in Randolph. Police say the man, who wore a blue shirt emblazoned with a shield, ordered the woman out of her vehicle, then sexually assaulted her .

Authorities say the crimes emerged from a dangerous subculture of police impersonators.

While some pursue nothing more than the thrill of using a police officer's authority to get someone to pull over, others exploit the power of the badge to rob and assault, often targeting women, immigrants, and others they believe will be most likely to obey their orders.

In either case, the public's trust in law enforcement is corroded.

"All too often, we've seen it happen," said Thomas J. Nee , president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. "This uniform that distinguishes us in society, and the apparatus that we use, is too easily available to the public." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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