Impersonating a cop is never a good idea. Here's why

 
Posted9/14/2018 5:30 AM
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  • Jose Lopez-Inclan, 28, of Carpentersville was arrested last week after police said he used strobe lights in his SUV to impersonate an officer. He told police he was in a hurry to get home to his children.

    Jose Lopez-Inclan, 28, of Carpentersville was arrested last week after police said he used strobe lights in his SUV to impersonate an officer. He told police he was in a hurry to get home to his children.

  • After speaking at the city's Sept. 11 memorial ceremony on Tuesday, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman hopped aboard a motorcycle, prompting some (perhaps faux) concern from a top commander who shouted "I don't want to be chief" before she rode off.

      After speaking at the city's Sept. 11 memorial ceremony on Tuesday, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman hopped aboard a motorcycle, prompting some (perhaps faux) concern from a top commander who shouted "I don't want to be chief" before she rode off. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Anyone with kids knows the feeling.

After a long day on the job, you just want to get home as quickly as possible to spend some time with the little ones. But sometimes the rush to get somewhere fast leads to some less-than-stellar decision making. Take, for example, Jose Lopez-Inclan. The 28-year-old Carpentersville man finds himself facing a felony charge of impersonating a police officer after his plan to get home in a hurry last week went terribly wrong.

It all went down about 3:35 p.m. last Friday, when Elgin police received a 911 call from a driver traveling along Route 25 on the city's southeast side, according to police reports obtained by Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Harry Hitzeman. The caller told dispatchers he was being followed by a black SUV flashing white strobe lights. Figuring it for an emergency vehicle, the caller pulled over and watched the SUV speed past.

An officer spotted the vehicle a short time later and pulled it over, reports state. When asked, the driver -- identified as Lopez-Inclan -- confirmed he had flashing lights in his SUV that he used for construction work. And then he told the officer why he was using them that afternoon.

"After further speaking with Jose, he advised he activated the lights because he wanted to go faster so he could get home and see his children," the report states.

"Jose advised he believed by activating the lights other motorists would assume he was a police officer and yield to his vehicle."

The admission led to Lopez-Inclan's arrest on a charge of false personation of a peace officer. That's a Class 4 felony, carrying a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Lopez-Inclan, who had to surrender his flashing lights as a condition of bond, is due back in court Sept. 20.

Why so serious?

A potential felony record and time in prison seems harsh for a guy just trying to hurry home to see his kids, but Illinois doesn't mess around when it comes to people pretending to be cops.

For good reason.

State lawmakers cracked down on such cases after the shocking murder of a suburban teen in 1985.

Bridget Drobney, 16, of Downers Grove, was attending a family wedding in downstate Macoupin County in July 1985.

After driving her father from the reception to where they were staying, she headed back to the party alone.

Driving along a gravel road, she spotted flashing red lights behind her and pulled over, believing she was being stopped by police. Instead it was three men who abducted Bridget, sexually assaulted her then stabbed her to death, leaving her body in a cornfield.

In the wake of the heinous crime, then-state Sen. Vince DeMuzio of nearby Carlinville sponsored legislation making the possession and use of such flashing lights by the general public illegal.

"Perhaps if we had had this legislation some years ago, we would not have seen the tragic murder of 16-year-old Bridget Drobney, whose murderer used flashing lights to trick her, an innocent victim, into pulling to the side of the road," DeMuzio said in July 1986, after Gov. Jim Thompson signed the law.

Not too late

There's still time to make tonight's Lake County Opioid Initiative's inaugural "Save a Life" Fundraising Event.

The fundraiser kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Libertyville -- Mundelein, 510 E. Route 83 in Mundelein.

If you go, you'll be among more than 200 expected guests, including mayors, law enforcement officials and community leaders.

The event's keynote speaker is the Daily Herald's Marie Wilson, who's reported extensively on the impact of the opioid crisis on the suburbs.

The Lake County Opioid Initiative's mission is to develop and implement efforts to prevent opioid abuse, addiction, overdose and death.

Its efforts to equip police with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone has helped save nearly 300 lives since December 2014, and the "A Way Out" program it helped get off the ground in 2016 has led to nearly 400 opioid users getting access to treatment.

For information about tonight's event, call (224) 545-3798 or email director@drugfreelakecounty.org.

You can register at eventbrite.com/tickets.

No more kids lockup

Kids under age 13 who run afoul of the law in Cook County will no longer be locked up while their cases are pending. Under a measure approved Wednesday by the county board, taking a such a young child away from his or her home must be the last resort, and in those instances authorities should seek alternatives to a lockup.

"This ordinance is based on the best practices for treatment of children in conflict with the law," the ordinance's sponsor, Commissioner Larry Suffredin of Chicago, said after its passage. "It will prevent young children from being scarred by confinement in detention and leading to more problems later in life."

Backers say the policy is consistent with American Pediatric Association findings that confining a child has adverse health consequences that last a lifetime.

It can only get better

More changes are afoot at the Geneva Police Department. Among them, the hiring of new Officer Xavier Perez, who was sworn in by Mayor Kevin Burns on Monday.

As he does with every new officer, Burns grilled Perez about his previous work experiences -- in Perez's case, his time as general manager at Sky Naperville trampoline park. What was his most memorable experience there?

"Probably having to clean up throw-up," Perez said.

"You've chosen the right career, sir," Burns quipped.

Burns also announced that Sgt. Mike Frieders has been promoted to commander, replacing the retiring Julie Nash. Officers Robert Kenders and Clint Montgomery were promoted to sergeant.

Being a cop isn't Frieders' only gig. He's also a part-time Geneva firefighter.

You can see it all on the city's YouTube channel.

Be safe, chief

Aurora police officials were shooting the breeze outside the police department Tuesday, a bit after the annual Sept. 11 memorial ceremony, when we heard one of them say, "That's not a good idea."

Looking up to see what Cmdr. Keith Cross was talking about, we saw Chief Kristen Ziman stowing her hat in a motorcycle compartment and preparing to take a ride with one of the military veterans who'd attended the ceremony. "I don't want to be chief!" Cross yelled.

• Got a tip or thoughts on a cops and crime-related issue to share? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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