Imposters: Part I

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Steven who wanted to be a police officer, really bad. He was only 18, so he had to be diligent in trying to find police agencies that would hire him. I met him when I was working as a Records Clerk for a mid-sized police department while I attended college and he was a police explorer for the same agency. He would talk to me frequently about which agencies he had applied with and interviewed with, mostly because I was the only other person he had met that had interviewed with the California State Police (they have since become extinct as an agency). I was later told that he had been fired from our agency because he had been taking the police cars to the car wash (that’s always helpful), but then driving Code 3 (lights and siren) back to the police station. That is not an approved method of drying the police vehicles.

When I moved on the local university police as a police officer, I didn’t think too much of Steven, until I was in Briefing one day, flipping through the BOLs (Be On The Lookout printouts). There, on a flyer from the California State Police was Steven. The flyer said that Steven had been driving around our county, in his white, Ford Tempo, pulling people over with a red spotlight, and then telling them he was a State Police officer. I was slightly amused, but I didn’t imagine that I would interact with him again.

Years later, I read a newspaper article about Steven. It seemed that Steven had finally gotten hired as a civilian police officer on a local military base. But while working there, he decided to purchase a fully outfitted police car from the CHP, using department letterhead and (I guess) his personal checking account. He painted this police car with the logo of a fictional federal law enforcement agency, like the Western District Federal Police, or something similar. He then went down to a local county courthouse and obtained a handful of outstanding warrants and set out to serve them.

Steven drove around that county (not my county, but about an hours drive away) and served a bunch of arrest warrants, taking people into custody and booking them into the county jail. Unfortunately, one of the people he arrested was not the person from the warrant; it was a case of mistaken identity that the arrestee couldn’t resolve…because he was developmentally disabled. Much later, when the family finally found their disabled relative in jail, they raised holy hell (as they should). The Sheriff’s Office demanded to know which agency had booked the young man into their jail. Um…the Western District Federal Police? Who the F*** is that? I imagine someone shouting at shrugging shoulders.

Steven was located and arrested for his crimes and sentenced to federal prison. I was telling a group of my students this story at the police department when my Captain walked in. My Captain had come to my agency from the local airport police department and he was an excellent commanding officer and kind of a badass. He listened to the story for a moment and said, “That sounds like Steve Nemec.”

Shocked, I told him that it was Steven. The Captain then shared with us that while he was working at the airport, he began hearing reports that someone was driving around the tarmac in a white, Ford Tempo, with a magnetic sign on the door that said “FAA Inspector.” The Captain said this person would board commercial aircraft and inspect them. The Captain began searching this person out and finally caught him and sure enough, it was Steven. Steven, following his stint in federal prison, was out on probation, which required that he not work in either law enforcement or security, immediately went out and got a job with airport security. It was during his lunch breaks that he felt the need, or desire, to pretend to be an FAA Inspector. He was arrested for a violation of his probation.

But that is not the end of the story. If you want more, simply Google “Steven J. Nemec” for the rest.