The call came in to Notre Dame College police in South Euclid for a person with a gun in the cafeteria.
Officers arrived within 30 seconds — and found the woman had run out the back.
When they eventually found her, they also found that she was wearing what looks like a police officer’s uniform, complete with ‘peace officer’ patches on both shoulders, a gold badge, even a baton and a gun.
“She clearly had the same gear that a police officer would wear on the duty belt, including the gun. That was very visible,” said Chief Jeffrey Scott of Notre Dame College Police.
Turns out, the woman is a licensed security guard, but not a peace or police officer. Police said she told them that she was on campus visiting a friend and had her weapon on her at the time. She was eventually charged with impersonating a peace officer.
Ohio law is clear in that security officers must wear distinct and different uniforms than police officers, and patches identifying which company they are working for.
In this case, the woman told police this was the uniform she wore when she worked “for herself” as a security officer at bars and clubs around Cleveland. She said she did not know she couldn’t wear the ‘peace officer’ patch.
For Chief Scott, that is a huge concern.
“That’s not fair to the public that she is wearing a uniform that she has no business wearing,” Scott said. “And what we’re finding out is the bigger picture of all of this is people are wearing these generic uniforms, working special details and side jobs.”
James Borntrager is an enforcement investigator with Ohio Homeland Security Investigations. He said it’s a big issue and his office investigates several cases every month.
“You see new stories often where people like this will pull people over on the side of the road and they’re not law enforcement. The bottom is line is that it’s a risk to public safety,” Borntrager explained.
And the generic patches? They’re easy to obtain, from online retailers like Amazon or eBay, or various shops around Cleveland, Borntrager said.
The training for an armed security officer in Ohio is 120 hours versus 700 hours for a state-certified police officer. Under state law, a peace officer is the same thing as a police officer.