Fake cop or good samaritan? Courts will decide

August 1, 2012  PLYMOUTH VOICE

Behind the Flashing Lights

By: Harold Merritt

A telephone inquiry to Northville Township police last week led to the arrest of a volunteer firefighter suspected of impersonating a police officer.
 The caller told the police dispatcher that she wanted to verify the identification of an officer who had stopped her near her home in Northville Township in what she was led to believe was an undercover police vehicle.

She described the car as a silver Dodge Magnum with red flashing lights in the windows. She stated she left her Northville home and looped back around the block to make sure her garage door was closed. When she returned to her street, the driver of the Dodge Magnum motioned her to pull over and roll down her car window. She said the driver never actually identified himself as a police officer and spoke with a British accent.

He allegedly questioned her about her presence in the area and told her that she appeared suspicious driving around the neighborhood. He also told her, she said, that there had been break-ins in the area and he was questioning her in reference to that.

She said that upon reflection after the encounter she became curious and her suspicions prompted her call to the police dispatcher. 
The driver of the Dodge Magnum was later identified as a volunteer firefighter with the Northville City Fire Department. A police sergeant recalled that he had spoken to a subject matching the description of the Dodge driver when the man applied for a reserve police officer position with the Northville Township Police Department. The sergeant still had the man’s application on file and went to the address provided at about 10 a.m. The police officer left a business card asking the individual to call him at the police station.

According to police reports of the incident, the suspect voluntarily came to the police station that evening for a meeting but was not driving the Magnum. He returned to the station July 21 driving the Dodge Magnum, which police photographed as evidence. He told officers that he had flashed the emergency lights to avoid another vehicle at the scene and a possible collision.

Northville Fire Chief Jim Allen acknowledged that the man had a long work history as volunteer firefighter who also works in various other communities. The suspect was assigned to the Main Street station, in Northville, at the time of the incident, according to Allen.

“We gave him permission to use those (emergency) lights, and he’s only allowed to operate them in a 5-mile radius, only in Northville, and he’s also a police reservist in Livonia. Did he use poor judgment? Yes he did,” Allen said.”

The man was issued a citation for improper use of emergency lights and ordered to appear in court following a police investigation of the incident.

Livonia Deputy Police Chief Ben McDermitt, who said he was not completely familiar with the details of the incident, declined to comment, except to say, “Does he need to be charged? I’ll leave that up to the prosecutor or judge and jury.”

Northville Fire Department has placed the man on unpaid leave until his arraignment in 35th District Court scheduled for Aug. 15.



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