CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to increase the penalties for impersonation of a police officer or fire fighter. House Bill 5336, sponsored by Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago), toughens penalties for anyone who impersonates a police officer or fire fighter while committing a more serious crime and broadens the definition of Peace Officer to include local, state, or federal officials. The Governor initiated 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 3 years. The legislation passed both houses unanimously.
“We put our trust in law enforcement officers to keep us safe. When someone impersonates an officer, it seriously violates that trust, and can put the public and even other officers in great danger,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I am pleased to sign this legislation into law to make sure that people who try to take advantage of others by pretending to be a police officer face tough consequences.”
HB 5336 increases penalties for Aggravated False Personation of Peace Officer to a Class 2 felony - carrying a sentence of 3-7 years in jail and up to 4 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 fire fighter 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.
“Recently there have been several high profile cases of criminals impersonating officers to gain access to their victims,” said Rep. Osterman. “Every time these crimes take place, they not only hurt the victim, but put into jeopardy the trust we place in our law enforcement agencies. This bill will help send the message that Illinois is serious about protecting our communities and the officers who serve them.”
“It is instinctive for most citizens to not only respect police officers, but to put our trust in them as well. When a police officer asks us to do something, generally speaking we will do it,” said Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “Most of the time, that trust is not misplaced. But when criminals pretend to be police officers, the trust we have for law enforcement can put us in a dangerous situation.”
In January, the Sun-Times documented a number of police impersonation cases in Chicago, including one man who was sentenced to only 24 months of probation and 10 days of 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 only applies to people claiming to be police officers and not U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers.
Last year, Gov. 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.
HB 5336 is effective immediately.