Hillsborough County
Chad Chronister, Sheriff
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    Release Number: 19-308

    • For Immediate Release:
    • Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
    • July 25, 2019
    • Contact Person:
    • Public Affairs Office : piocommandcenter@hcso.tampa.fl.us
    • 813-247-8060

    Spotting Law Enforcement Impersonators

    Sheriff Chad Chronister: Can you spot a fake law enforcement officer?


    After multiple incidents in Hillsborough County involving law enforcement impersonators, Sheriff Chad Chronister issued a public service announcement (PSA) on Thursday, July 25, to educate the public on how to identify a real or fake law enforcement officer.

    In the video released in Spanish and English on social media, Sheriff Chronister advised residents to familiarize themselves with the uniforms of their local law enforcement agencies and always look for a utility belt, visible badge and name tag on a uniformed officer or deputy.

    "If your gut tells you someone in plain clothes is a fake, call 911 to confirm their identity," said Sheriff Chronister.

    He also advised drivers to be leery of anyone claiming to be "undercover" during a traffic stop.

    "Be cautious of any car trying to pull you over that looks old and not in good condition," explained Sheriff Chronister. "If you ever feel unsafe stopping, keep driving until you get to a well-lit area, or turn on your hazard lights, reduce your speed and call 911. Dispatchers can let you know if a real officer is behind you."

    The PSA comes after three recent incidents in Hillsborough County involving citizens impersonating law enforcement officers. On April 17, Matthew Joseph Erris, 26, activated red and blue lights on his Chevrolet Trailblazer and attempted to pull over an undercover HCSO detective. On July 4, Barry Hastings Jr., 35, performed a traffic stop on an off-duty Lee County Sheriff's deputy. Most recently on Monday, July 22, Travis Strickland, 30, showed a fake badge and a real handgun to a couple of men in Dover during an argument and claimed to be an undercover narcotics officer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. All three men were arrested and charged with Impersonating a Law Enforcement Officer.

    Sheriff Chronister's PSA can be viewed and shared on both the English and Spanish Facebook pages for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The video can also be downloaded from the following YouTube links:

  • Sheriff Chad Chronister
    Sheriff Chad Chronister
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