Flint, MI – A group of people posing as police officers spent years fooling firefighters and actual police officers in Genesee County before their arrest.
The group of about 10 imposters has been accused of making false arrests of people they accused of committing crimes and fooling emergency responders at crime scenes into believing they were legitimate law enforcement officers, the Flint Journal reported.
"We believe that on some occasions, they were the first to show up on crime scenes," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said. "On some occasions, the real police would ask them to perform tasks at the scene, not realizing they were imposters."
The vigilante patrol called themselves the Genesee County Fire and EMS Media-Genesee County Task Force Blight Agency.
They responded as police at places such as county parks, house fires, vehicles crashes, and other crime scenes, according to Kevin Shanlian, the chief of the Genesee County Parks Ranger Division.
Leyton said the police impersonators were found wearing uniforms, badges and utility belts, and had even created an incident log book with details on the dates, times, and addresses of emergencies they had responded to, WNEM reported.
Chief Shanlian began investigating after he received a complaint about rude rangers at a park in Genesee in September of 2017. The people who filed the complaint had believed they were dealing with real police officers.
He discovered that three people, who were dressed like police officers, approached two people at a park and accused them of trespassing.
The fake officers told the people the park was closed and that they were under arrest even though the park was open at the time and they had zero authority.
The police impersonators handcuffed two victims and demanded their driver’s licenses.
The victims told police the imposters put their information into a laptop inside their vehicle, which had a police light bar on top, Leyton said.
The fake officers then told the victims that they were being placed on a criminal watch list database, and then their handcuffs were removed and their licenses were returned to them, according to the Flint Journal.
"We believe they've done this to other people," Leyton told the Flint Journal. "We're asking people to come forward if, in fact, they believe they've been victimized by people they don't believe are real police officers."
"I believe there's probably hundreds of victims who were actually detained and didn't have good experiences with these folks," Chief Shanlian told the Flint Journal.
In one instance, the imposters tried to get into a scene of a fire but were prevented by a real police officer, according to Mt. Morris Township Police Chief Terence Green.
"I'm not 100 percent sure what their motivation was. I know they were getting together in the beginning as a community watch group, but that obviously got out of hand," Chief Shanlian told WNEM.
He said the group of about 10 people had been impersonating police officers since October of 2015.
Three of the suspects were charged May 30 with crimes that included three counts of unlawful imprisonment and one count of impersonating a peace officer to commit a crime, the Flint Journal reported.
Emily Nicole Burrison, 27, and Jeffrey Lee Jones, 29, were arraigned on May 31.
A third man, 23-year-old Auston Rose, was arrested in connection with the case and was being held in the Erie County, Ohio. He was working at an amusement park at the time of his arrest and is awaiting extradition to Michigan.
The Flint Journal reported that court records showed there were at least five other co-defendants in the case that have not yet been charged.