Eight months after a man used an unmarked vehicle to impersonate an Anna Police officer, the department has officially taken ownership of the now-jailed suspect’s car and will use it to help solve other crimes.
Anna Police Chief Jeff Caponera said the full-circle story began on Dec. 3 when Kenneth Edward Spence, 62, of Plano allegedly used his black Ford Taurus and a flashing light bar and siren to pull over another vehicle on U.S. Highway 75. A department press release said Spence was dressed in police-like clothing and carried a gun when he approached the driver and requested to see the individual’s vehicle registration and driver’s license. Spence quickly found out the driver he pulled over was a real, off-duty officer of the Plano Police Department.
“Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for us, he really stopped the wrong car,” Caponera said.
After handing over his documentation — including his official Plano Police identification — the real officer requested to speak with Spence’s sergeant. Spence reportedly returned from his vehicle and told the officer his sergeant had cleared him to leave. The officer did leave, but shot a photo of Spence’s vehicle and licence plate before he did. The Plano officer then headed straight to the Anna Police station, where he alerted the real authorities and filed a report. Anna and Plano immediately began a joint investigation.
Plano Police public information officer David Tilley said Spence’s vehicle was located in Plano the following day and was stopped for an expired registration violation. Spence reportedly provided a fake name during the stop, but was eventually identified and admitted to having multiple outstanding warrants, including those for parole violation, identity theft and tampering with a government document. He was placed under arrest for the warrants, charged with felony impersonation of a public servant and booked into the Collin County Jail. The Plano and Anna departments both said they did not know of any other instances in which Spence may have tried to pull drivers over.
“The motive for this particular crime is still unknown,” Caponera said of Spence’s alleged impersonation. “But I can assume that he was trying to gather information for the furtherance of his identity crimes and theft that he’s been charged with.”
Spence’s vehicle — a former fleet unit of the New Mexico State Police — was seized following his arrest and recently awarded to the Anna Police Department through a process known as civil forfeiture.
“It’s in great condition, inside and outside, and makes a great addition to our Criminal Investigation Division team,” Anna Police Lt. Pete Copin said in the department’s press release. “The only thing we had to add was a radio and upgrade the emergency lights.”
Caponera and Tilley said it’s common for police agencies to use unmarked units for traffic enforcement operations, but officers understand that also makes them more appealing to criminals who seek to impersonate them.
“If you do suspect you’re being stopped by someone who isn’t really a police officer, what I always recommend is to slow down and acknowledge the fact that there is a potential officer behind you,” Caponera said. “Turn on your four-way flashers to show that you know they are there. Never give the impression that you’re trying to evade, so don’t speed up and try to get away from them.”
Tilley encouraged concerned drivers to call 911 and let dispatchers know what’s happening, where they are and what kind of vehicle they are driving. Dispatchers are also often able to confirm whether a verified police officer is attempting to make a stop. Tilley said drivers with doubts about the validity of a stop should also make their way to well populated and well lit locations before pulling over. If a suspicious person approaches, Tilley advised drivers to remain cautious, pay attention to the details of that person’s appearance and statements and request the individual produce identification.
“Look at their uniform, look at that badge, look at that patch,” Tilley said. “And if they don’t have a uniform on, ask to see their official ID. If anything doesn’t seem right after you’ve been pulled over, you can keep that window rolled up, but you need to be on the phone with 911, verifying everything.”