Law enforcement impersonators pop up after local stay-at-home orders


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Clare Coffey says she was meeting a photographer at Auditorium Shores for a shoot on Wednesday, when, to her discomfort, a man called out to her.

Coffey said he offered to escort her around the park.

“I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I was surprised,” she told KXAN. “He said, ‘I’ll escort you through the park, I’ll escort you all day if you want.”

She said it was the man’s older model vehicle that stood out.

“It had decals on the side saying ‘Peace Officer,’ Coffey remembers.

My daughter just told me there were going to be peace officers in the park helping us ‘social distance’ so I was kind of like, there’s one.”

For the last week, KXAN Investigators have been sorting through tips about encounters with fake officers in Austin and Travis County.

It’s the second time KXAN’s reported on a bad actor imitating law enforcement — causing confusion about what local officers can and cannot do during the age of coronavirus.

On Thursday, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office says a man pretending to be a deputy was pulling people over for not following the stay-at-home ordinance.

The Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office say their goal is to educate and help people maintain social distancing. Citations are a last resort.

In any interaction, the Sheriff’s Office says a legitimate officer will be able to produce a badge or ID, which you can ask to see.

TCSO says anyone making a traffic stop will be in a fully marked vehicle and wearing a uniform.

“Put your hazards on and call 911,” said Capt. Tom Szimanski of TCSO. “And then dispatch will verify if you actually do have a police officer behind you or not.”

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