SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake police are searching for a man and woman who falsely represented themselves as police officers to steal a man's wallet, car and cellphone Monday night.
The duo approached a man as he was leaving the Rancho Market, 140 N. 900 West, around 11 p.m. Monday and told them they were police officers and needed to search him, Salt Lake police detective Cody Lougy said. They did not make any threats or show any weapons or police credentials.
"They patted (the victim) down, took his wallet and cellphone and said, 'Can we search your car for drugs?' and took off in it," Lougy said.
Police are now searching for the vehicle — a 1999 green Honda Accord with Utah plate Y95 4WD — and the two thieves. The man is described as white, between 35 and 40, about 5 feet 11 inches tall with a medium build and a mustache. He was wearing glasses, dark clothing and a backpack.
The woman is described as white, between 30 and 40 with a heavy build and brown, curly hair, Lougy said. She was wearing a blue blouse and beige pants.
Lougy said the cultural background of the victim, who is Latino, may have come into play. He said police in countries such as Mexico are widely feared and often don't wear uniforms.
While some officers work in plain clothes and unmarked cars, Lougy said there are a few things the public can still look for and ask for to verify their identity.
"If there's any question whether an officer is who he said or she said she is, we carry police credentials —a badge and picture IDs," Lougy said, noting that a phony badges are easy to obtain and are not necessarily enough and it's OK to ask to see an officer's photo ID. "It's not an insult to us. We're used to it. Generally, if we're in plain clothes, we have our IDs out so they're comfortable talking to us."
He said that it's also acceptable for someone who sees red and blue lights trailing them to pull over in a public place and call 911 to verify that it is a legitimate officer behind them. He said it only takes minutes for a marked police car to arrive or for dispatchers to verify that it is a legitimate police officer.
Officers want to prevent situations like the robbery Monday night.
"It definitely is frustrating, because they're using our position to gain someone's trust and victimize them," Lougy said. "Now if that individual comes into contact with police again, what will his reaction be?"
Those with information about the crime have been asked to call 801-799- 3000. Anonymous tips can be sent via text message to 274637 with the keyword TIPSLCPD and the relevant information.