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Stopped by a Police Impersonator

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William Lester Suff, also known as the Riverside Prostitute Killer and the Lake Elsinore Killer, is a serial killer who raped, stabbed, strangled, and sometimes mutilated 12 or more women in Riverside County, California, beginning in 1986.

Before carrying out these murders, Suff was convicted in 1974 by a Texas jury for beating his two-month-old daughter to death. Though Suff was sentenced to 70 years in a Texas prison, he served only 10 years before his 1984 release on parole.

Those who know Suff, described him as a mild-mannered loner, who worked as a county stock clerk. He was cunning, manipulative and intelligent, but possessed a temper and a profound need to dominate women.

While he was living in the Riverside area of Southern California, young women began disappearing at the rate of about one a month.

The exact total of victims was never determined, but between 20 to 30 women were reportedly snatched from the streets by a killer who rampaged through Lake Elsinore, Rubidoux, Corona, Romoland and other cities in Southern California.

Typically targeting prostitutes, Suff dumped the bodies of his victims in mountainous regions, dumpsters and various roadside areas where they were hard to find.

In some cases, the bodies were decomposed beyond recognition and if not for DNA evidence or dental records, would have remained nameless.

As mentioned, Suff usually picked out prostitutes as his victims and he convinced them to get in his car by telling them he was a police officer, as he flashed them a fake badge.

On July 19, 1995, a Riverside County jury found Suff guilty of killing 12 women and attempting to kill another, though police suspected him responsible for as many as 22 deaths.

On August 17, 1995, after deliberating for only 10 minutes, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on all 12 murder counts.

On October 26, 1995, the trial court followed the jury’s recommendations and ordered Suff condemned to death. Suff resides on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

The scary thing is, in this day and age, it’s become easier for criminals to impersonate police officers.

Frankly, it’s more and more common for us to hear on the news that someone bought a police uniform or badge online and pulled innocent people over to commit crimes.

With that being said, I want to share with you a few tips that can help you identify whether you are dealing with an impersonator or a real police officer.

Listen for the knock and announce. When a police officer comes to your front door, they are usually going to knock and announce their presence.

In addition to knocking, police typically state their purpose for being there and announce that they are officers of the law. They usually do something similar when approaching your vehicle during a traffic stop.

For example, if they pull you over they may come to your window and say, I’m Officer Smith with the Utah Highway Patrol, the reason I stopped you is because you were speeding.

Impersonators may not knock and announce themselves as an officer. If someone in a police uniform knocks on your door and does not state their purpose for being there, or doesn’t identify themselves do not open the door.

Of course, you can always call 911 and ask dispatch if an officer really is on Highway 41 pulling you over, if you think the cop might be a fake.

Ask for identification. These days, you can literally purchase police badges online for as little as $20. These badges are often replicas or commemorative badges, but the average person would never know the difference.

My point is, simply seeing a badge is no guarantee. For this reason, if you suspect an impersonator I would ask them to show you their police photo ID.

This will include their picture, rank, and the department they work for. This is a very common ID and a real officer should have no hesitation showing you this promptly.

While an impersonator may be able to fake a badge, it is much more difficult to fake a photo ID and police identification card. If the person cannot show you these things, they may be impersonating an officer.

Examine the uniform. While talking to a police officer, examine the uniform they are wearing. Most police departments operate similar to the military, meaning their clothes should be clean, unwrinkled and neatly kept.

Uniforms with stains and uniforms that do not fit properly are good indications of a fake.

The uniform will always include a badge and name tag. The name tag will usually be the first initial and their last name such as J. Smith. The badge will be made out of metal and will never be plastic or flimsy.

In addition, look for a utility belt with all of the tools of the trade including a flashlight, firearm, handcuffs, taser, magazines and radio.

As the radio is the most expensive part, impersonators will often go without a radio, but I assure you a real police officer would never approach you without a radio.

Remember, police officers have an incredibly difficult job, so even if you want to verify who they are, remain polite and calm, and most officers will understand that you are just being extra cautious.

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