Des Plaines police are looking for a man who pretended to be a city police officer and pulled over, handcuffed and robbed a 17-year-old girl on her way to Maine East High School in broad daylight.
Around 7:30 a.m. Monday, May 20, a man driving a white Ford Crown Victoria with a black grille, two spotlights and red and blue interior police lights pulled the girl's car over on the 100 block of Bender Road near Ballard, police said.
Pretending to be a police officer, he approached the driver's-side door of the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta and told the girl to get out.
Police say he grabbed her wrists, handcuffed her and walked her to the curb. He didn't answer when she asked what she had done wrong, police said.
After searching the interior of the vehicle, including the glove box, center console and trunk, the man walked the girl back to the front driver's-side door, removed the handcuffs and returned her keys, police said.
The man then got back into his car, made a quick U-turn and fled north on Bender, police said.
The girl later told police that $20 was missing from a coin purse in the center console.
The man's vehicle had black spray paint on the driver's-side front bumper, plus a dent on the front passenger's-side bumper, police said.
While police do not have a composite sketch of the impersonator, he is believed to be in his 30s, 6 feet tall, 180 pounds with muscular build, and short brown hair. He was wearing dark sunglasses, a beige, button-down shirt with a blank name tag patch over the pocket, black pants, and a black belt with multiple pouches, including a handcuff case, police said.
The victim was unharmed, but Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner is concerned the man might be planning a bigger crime down the road.
"After 36 years you learn to trust your intuition," Kushner said. "I'm very concerned that this could lead to something far more serious than what actually happened."
The girl does not think the man had a gun but noted he had a lapel microphone on his shirt and pretended to talk into it, though she never heard the radio, police said.
Kushner said there are literally thousands of old police vehicles on the road that are usually sold with the spotlights still on because they are structurally part of the vehicle. It also isn't hard for a civilian to purchase police interceptor lights, he added.
"We cannot control the sale of old police cars," he said. "If people are being pulled over and they are not certain that it's a police officer, they (should) drive to a populated area and dial 911 on their cellphone, ask (dispatchers) to verify whether it's a police officer."
Residents should not be afraid about upsetting the police officer and should drive to a well-lit area with people around, such as a gas station or convenience store, before calling 911, he added.
While most police cars have special license plates, it's not uncommon for unmarked police cars to have municipal or civilian license plates, Kushner added.
"We expect professionalism out of our police officers," Kushner said. "I'm thoroughly convinced that this was not a police officer."
Kushner said he notified Illinois State Police and the Cook County sheriff's office about the impersonator.
"They have the largest fleet of white Crown Victorias at this time," he said.
Kushner added that so far this is a lone incident. He doesn't know of any other cop impersonators in neighboring communities.
"We've put information out, we've checked every lead, so far and it's been fruitless," Kushner said.