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Tougher penalties for police impersonation win final legislative approval; Gov. Blagojevich pledges to sign          Send a link to a friend

Legislation would increase jail time for police impersonation, create new offense for impersonation while carrying a deadly weapon, and broaden definition of peace officer to include local, state and federal officials

[MARCH 30, 2006]  CHICAGO -- On Wednesday Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich praised the Illinois State Senate for passing House Bill 5336, a bill that will increase penalties for impersonating a police officer or firefighter. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago, and Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, would toughen penalties for anyone who impersonates a police officer or firefighter while committing a more serious crime and would broaden the definition of peace officer to include local, state or federal officials. The bill passed the House unanimously in February and now moves to the governor's desk. The governor will sign the bill.

The governor proposed the legislation in January in response to a Chicago Sun-Times series that highlighted more than 1,000 police impersonation cases in the Chicago area over the last three years.

"Our police officers and firefighters work hard to keep us safe," Blagojevich said. "The idea that someone would pretend to be a police officer or firefighter and put people's lives in jeopardy is wrong and it's dangerous. That's why this bill is so important."

House Bill 5336 would increase penalties for aggravated false personation of peace officer to a Class 2 felony, carrying a sentence of three to seven years in jail and up to four years probation, and would also broaden the definition of peace officer to include any homeland security officers and local, state or federal authorities. The legislation would also create a new class of false personation, making impersonation of a peace officer or firefighter while carrying a deadly weapon a Class 3 felony, and would make it a Class 2 felony to unlawfully stop another person while operating a car that has flashing or rotating lights.

"Most law-abiding citizens respect law enforcement officials and will follow the instructions given to them," said Roskam, Senate sponsor of the legislation. "Unfortunately, there are criminals who seek to take advantage of the trust people put in law enforcement officers and use it for their own purposes. Sometimes it is just people with a warped sense of humor, but other times it is something far more sinister. We need to address this growing problem, and House Bill 5336 is one step in that process."

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"Fake cops in Illinois and throughout the nation are continuing to use a variety of tricks to deceive their victims," said Osterman, House sponsor of the bill. "These people are some of the worst kinds of criminals. Impersonating a public official not only violates the trust of innocent people, but it undermines the role of peace officers in the community. This bill would increase the penalties for those who misrepresent themselves and take advantage of the unsuspecting."

In January, the Sun-Times documented a number of police impersonation cases in Chicago, including one man who was sentenced to only 24 months' probation and 10 days' community service for posing as a fake cop -- even though he attacked a man at gunpoint. In another case, charges were dismissed against a man who allegedly identified himself as "ISA-Homeland Security" to get out of a traffic ticket because current law applies only to people claiming to be police officers, not U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers.

Last year, Blagojevich signed legislation making it illegal to impersonate a pilot in restricted areas of Illinois airports. The law makes the impersonation of a pilot, airline employee, airport employee or contractor in restricted areas of an airport a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison. The bill also prohibits anyone from claiming or falsely representing that they are a pilot, airline employee, airport employee or contractor at an airport in order to obtain the uniform, identification card or license of any airport or airline employee.

House Bill 5336 will take effect immediately after the governor's signature.

[News release from the governor's office]


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