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Police Impersonation: Pretenses and Predators


Empirical research on police impersonation is rare. This research employs quantitative and qualitative methodologies on 2002–2010 police case files describing impersonation incidents from three police agencies to provide an understanding of the individual and situational constructs associated with police impersonation. Research objectives included: exploring incident characteristics, comparing incidents to national violent crime statistics; and identifying common themes. Results show that police impersonation incidents, offenders, and victims are unique, particularly when compared to national data. Qualitative analysis identified three major themes related to tactics, motivations, and typology. The research offers a framework for establishing policy recommendations.

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  1. Overall violence includes attempted and completed rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault. Reported indicates that these victimizations were reported to the police.

  2. The number of officers employed by each agency is not reported to protect confidentiality.

  3. Participating agencies did not want to share juvenile cases. Thus, our analyses only include cases of adults engaging in impersonation.

  4. Some case files did not provide narratives from which qualitative analyses could be conducted.

  5. 2010 NCVS data were not available at the time of this research.

  6. Other data exist, but are not well suited for this comparison. First, the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) offers data on violent crimes that are reported to the police. These data, however, fail to offer the details available in the NCVS except for homicide. For example, there are no measures of incident characteristics, victim characteristics or offender characteristics in the UCR for any violence except homicide. Clearly, they are not well-suited for our purposes. The National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is also an option. It does offer characteristics on incident, victim, and offender characteristics for non-fatal violence as does the NCVS. However, NIBRS suffers from poor coverage of the nation, especially larger jurisdictions (Addington & Rennison, 2008).


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Correspondence to Callie Marie Rennison.

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Rennison, C.M., Dodge, M. Police Impersonation: Pretenses and Predators. Am J Crim Just 37, 505–522 (2012).

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