Early morning on Friday, Aug. 28, a Black student, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported that they were stopped and patted down by someone who looked like a police officer near the Bobbit Visual Arts Center. The apparent officer drove a white vehicle that resembled a police car.
News of the event was sent out in a Safety Bulletin email to the Albion College community after campus safety was made aware of the instance.
The anonymous student informed a staff member of the incident who then reported it to Albion Department of Public Safety (ADPS) Chief Scott Kipp on Sunday, Aug. 30. Chief Kipp determined that the unknown police officer was not a part of the ADPS. Chief Kipp then forwarded the information to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department (CCSD), where officials determined that the unknown police officer was not a part of the CCSD either.
“I immediately began looking into whether we had any information about this that could be helpful, which led to an incident that happened on campus about six weeks ago involving a vehicle matching the description of the vehicle in this incident driving through campus with emergency lights on,” said Kenneth Snyder, associate dean of students and director of campus safety. “We reported that incident to the police at that time, and I reminded the police of that incident in case it and what happened on Aug. 28 were linked.”
The unknown police officer seems to not be a legitimate member of any Michigan police department and believed to be impersonating an officer. CCSD is working on the ongoing investigation to further identify the impersonator.
“It makes me very concerned and very angry. A lot could have gone wrong in the interaction with our student. I’m very relieved and grateful that it wasn’t worse,” said Snyder. “If this incident wasn’t reported, then this person would potentially have gotten away with it and been able to victimize someone else.
The most recent update comes from a WBCK article explaining a follow-up at a home along 20 1/2 Mile Road in Marengo Township, where a 30-year-old man, who was a suspect in the cop impersonation, was questioned and searched with a warrant.
“It’s a good reminder that everyone needs to be alert and watchful, and to report things that don’t seem right, said Synder. “That’s something we all can do to look out for each other in our campus community and the greater community of Albion.”
While impersonating a police officer is illegal in the United States, cop impersonations still occur, and have even increased since quarantine for COVID-19. Determining whether a cop is legitimate or not, one can search their town’s, city’s and state’s police car models and uniforms. While it may be unknown of the suspect’s motive, there are a few reasons for cop impersonations.
“My own view would be that some people like the idea of the power the police have, or want to be a cop like what they see on TV,” said Snyder.
Police brutality and systemic racism against people of color, especially Black people, led to a growing prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer, leading individuals to think about how to interact with police in a way that keeps both parties safe.
Snyder provided a Real World Guide to Interacting with Law Enforcement developed by the NAACP. Some of the do’s while approached by a police officer include keeping one’s hands where the police officer can see them and remembering the police officer’s name and badge number.
“If we had a more personal relationship with maybe the police department and maybe even campus security, and they didn’t look at us like, ‘I’m just upholding the statues that exist,’ and looking at students as, ‘I’m just fulfilling my job,’ and they actually looked at us as people and as humans, I think our relationships on this campus would be a lot better,” said Jayson Sawyer, a senior from Evanston, Ill. “It would reduce situations and incidents like this from happening because we would know those behaviors and actions don’t reflect the people we put our faith in to protect us.”
If you have any information regarding the incident, please contact Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-629-1234, or dial 911 for the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
If you are mistreated or discriminated against by any police officer, remember the officer’s name and badge number to which you can file a complaint after you are in a safe area. You can contact Snyder, Chief Belonging Officer Kenna Williams at email@example.com or 517-629-0501 or Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Leroy Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-629-0226.