On Friday, February 8, a man was arrested by the LASD under suspicion of impersonating a police officer. The arrest came after police were sent video in January of a man wearing an LAPD T-shirt antagonizing a group of Black Lives Matter protesters. The people gathered to protest the October shooting of an unarmed black man by an LAPD officer inside a gym. In the video, the suspect can be seen wearing a T-shirt with the LAPD logo on it and chanting “white power” at the protesters. The suspect in the case is of Asian descent.
LASD deputies made the arrest when they saw the suspect wearing the same T-shirt bearing the LAPD logo on it and recognized him from the video footage. Upon being interviewed, the suspect admitted to impersonating a police officer on multiple occasions in an effort to “get respect.” After his arrest, the suspect was released from custody on $2,500 bail.
Impersonating a police officer is covered under California Penal Code 538 PC. Simply dressing like a police officer for a Halloween party, a play, or even as a joke isn’t enough to be charged with violating PC 538. You cross the line when you dress up as a police officer and fraudulently cause another person to think that you are a police officer. Additionally, PC 538 requires that anyone who sells genuine police uniforms must verify that the person to whom they are selling actually is a police officer. If not, the merchant will be charged under PC 538(d).
There are two notable exceptions to the law. When someone is wearing a police uniform for the sole purpose of a theater production or movie/television filming, or if that person has written permission from the identified law enforcement agency (in this case, the LAPD). These exemptions extend to selling, transferring, and wearing a police uniform.
Impersonating a police officer is a misdemeanor in California. The possible penalties include summary probation, up to 6 months in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.