Phoenix man accused of pretending to be a cop, illegally detains man

A man handcuffed and searched another man in Youngtown, claiming to be an officer but he wasn't, MCSO said.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 9:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Phoenix man is facing charges after investigators say he pretended to be a police officer and illegally detained a man at a convenience store last week. On Sunday, just before midnight, security guards called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office about a suspicious person. When they arrived, the guards showed them surveillance video from Friday of someone following their patrol car and stopping a man at a Circle K near 111th and Grand avenues in Youngtown. Video shows 22-year-old Anthony Michael Harper wearing a tactical vest and putting the man in handcuffs and searching him, investigators say.

“It’s dangerous, because you don’t really know what’s going on and you would trust that someone like that would be a police officer,” said Maryann Garcia, a neighbor.

Court paperwork says Harper told the man, “I am Officer Harper with the State of Arizona,” and told him to put his hands behind his back before taking him to his car. The security company identified Harper and told MCSO deputies, who went to talk to him about what happened. Harper told them he believed he was within his rights as a bail recovery agent to detain and search the man, but investigators said he didn’t have proper documentation. He also admitted he was not a certified security guard.

“You got to be on alert. You got to know what’s going on around you,” said Sue Huffman who works nearby.

According to court documents, he told police, “a reasonable person would believe he was a police officer based upon how he introduced himself.” Police also spoke with the man, who said he believed he was being arrested by an officer based on how Harper presented himself, investigators say. Harper is not employed with any law enforcement agency. He was arrested on Monday and booked on one count of unlawful imprisonment and one count of impersonating a peace officer.

So what should you do if you’re approached by someone claiming to be a member of law enforcement? Arizona’s Family went to Stan Kephart, a former Salt River Police Chief, for insight.

Kephart stressed people have a right to ask for more information. “I want a badge and an ID card to identify yourself before I’m going to follow any of your directions or comply with what you’re saying,” Kephart said. “This is becoming a problem now, in this day and age with the disrespect that we’re seeing for peace officers who are resorting to doing these types of things to commit crimes.”