The fear of impersonation

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It was interesting to see how a major drug bust by law enforcement turned into a safety concern by those who witnessed the event.  
In case you missed it, officers from the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) executed a very successful intercept of over $11 million in cocaine. The operation occurred in broad daylight on the Sir George Walter Highway at the Old Parham Road junction. The officers netted a total of 286 bricks of cocaine with a combined weight of 336.40 kilograms or (740.8 pounds).
We are overjoyed with this result, and we commend the ONDCP for a job well done. It is always good to see success in the battle against hard drugs, so we tip our hats to all the law enforcement agencies that were involved.
That being said, the manner in which the operation was executed has left some residents feeling very uneasy. Not particularly because the officers were heavily armed and masked, but because there is a fear that the criminal element will increase their impersonation of legitimate law enforcement officers in the perpetration of crimes.
One witness said that they were unaware if they were watching a drug interdiction exercise or a brazen daylight robbery. Another said, “It looked scary because of all the masked men robbing people. I don’t know if it is a new tactic, but it is something that doesn’t go down too well.”  
It is easy to understand the concern of the citizenry. At the same time, it is easy to understand the need for law enforcement to conceal the identity of its officers when going up against big-time drug dealers. In this case, we are talking about over $11 million worth of cocaine. This is not a small time street peddler. We must assume that anybody moving $11 million in a single shipment will go to extreme means to protect themselves or extract revenge.
So what is the solution? To be honest, we do not know, but we are sure that we are not alone when it comes to this “rock and a hard place” situation. We should first seek to find out how other countries handle the problem. Impersonating a law enforcement officer is a serious offence in most places, and we should enact tough laws to deter anyone who is thinking of committing this type of crime.
The most recent case of law enforcement impersonation that we could find occurred in the latter part of 2017. In that instance, Trevor Este was convicted of impersonating a police officer and was fined $1,000 in the All Saints Magistrate’s Court. He was ordered to pay the fine forthwith or serve two months in prison. In this particular case, it was a non-violent attempt at extortion, so maybe, the sentence fit the crime. But how do we treat impersonation as a whole? Are we too lenient?
Space being limited, we will examine the penalty as laid out in the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy Act, 2003. It states that, “A person convicted of an offence under subsection 16 (2) or section 34 is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or both.” (Section 34 relates to impersonation.)
This seems to be relatively minimal, considering all that we have experienced. So maybe it is time to revisit the penalties for impersonating a law enforcement officer.
By contrast, the state of Florida has considerably stiffer penalties for impersonation; and, Florida knows a thing or two about drugs and crime! According to Florida Statute 843.08, the crime of Falsely Impersonating an Officer has two enforceable elements that can enhance the possible penalties. These aggravating elements are: 1) Falsely Impersonating a law enforcement during the course of the commission of a felony; and, 2) If the commission of the felony results in the death or personal injury of another human being.
The crime of Falsely Impersonating an Officer is a third degree felony in Florida and carries a penalty of up to five years imprisonment, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. When done in commission of a felony, it becomes a second degree felony and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and $10,000 in fines.
Moving up the ladder … falsely impersonating an officer in the commission of a felony, causing injury or death, is a first degree felony and can carry severe punishment with up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and $10,000 in fines. In this last scenario, there are minimum sentencing guidelines as well.
The point is, we may have reached a time in our society’s evolution where we need a greater deterrent for anyone considering impersonating a law enforcement officer. A minor fine or short imprisonment terms no longer seems applicable.
 

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