Used police cars sold online as North Texas detectives investigate impersonators

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by JASON WHITELY / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 5 at 9:38 AM

DALLAS -- As two North Texas police departments look for police impersonators, WFAA-TV discovered how easy it is for impostors to look like a real officer.

"Any time we have someone — not just in our city but in other cities — it's concerning due to the fact that people trust the police," said Denton police spokesman Officer Ryan Grelle.

Carrollton police are looking for a man who posed as an officer and pulled over and raped a woman in November.

Two weeks later, Denton got a similar report. That 23-year-old victim was able to fight off her assailant.

Both impersonators drove what looked like unmarked police cars with flashing lights, according to their victims.

Retired unmarked police cars have always been for sale online. But News 8 discovered marked police cars — with their law enforcement equipment still inside — are openly on sale, including a retired unit from the City of Boyd in Wise County.

"Wow, that one could be really dangerous," Grelle said when News 8 showed him the car’s advertisement.

Boyd police recently retired that vehicle, the chief said, and it was supposed to be stripped of decals and equipment by the McKinney dealership that bought it.

But someone advertised the car for sale on Craigslist "as-is" for $5,700. The Crown Victoria that Boyd retired still had its exterior markings, police radios, a radar, red-and-blue light bar, and prisoner cage in the back seat.

"It's concerning, because they could fall in the wrong hands," Grelle said.

That's not the only example, though.

News 8 found another marked patrol car with a red-and-blue light bar and prisoner cage at a used car lot in Lewisville. The eight-year-old Crown Victoria is listed for less than $8,000.

Craigslist alone lists dozens of retired police cars in North Texas. Most are unmarked. Security guards buy some, smaller police departments do, too, but the problem is that the public can purchase one as well.

That 2006 Crown Victoria sits right outside the Lewisville dealership, but the owner asked News 8 to leave when he discovered WFAA wasn’t going to buy it.

But he did reveal that he had sold a marked Dodge Charger police car for $11,000 on Craigslist. According to pictures of that vehicle on line, the black-and-white law enforcement car had a prisoner cage and exterior markings, but no light bar.

A lot of police departments strip their patrol cars of law enforcement equipment before selling them, but removing the equipment is not a requirement.

Dallas attorney Pete Schulte, a former police officer, said lawmakers should consider a closer look at what happens to retired cop cars.

"I think there should be more provisions in the law that when cities do decommission these vehicles, they have to take certain steps to make sure they're not used unlawfully," he said.

Schulte also points to the penal code for those marked cars, noting that even if the public can legally buy marked police cars, anyone caught driving them can still face a charge of false ID.

Neither the Carrollton nor Denton victims wanted to recount their experiences on a rare crime that's apparently easy to commit.

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