Most of us can remember the fun we had as children, dressing up and pretending to be a police officer, a firefighter or something similar.  If we were fortunate we might even have a shop-bought outfit that faintly resembled the real thing; if not, we let our fertile imaginations fill the gaps – all good, harmless fun.

While many of us grow out of this before we’re teenagers, for others this persists into adulthood – cosplay enthusiasts, historical re-enactment societies – where it’s still pretty harmless.  But for a dangerous minority, dressing up can take a sinister tone.

Impersonating ‘Blue Light’ Personnel

For some of them, their intentions aren’t ominous. Maybe it’s an obsession with ‘blue light’ services that leads them to want to wear the uniform and pose as a police officer, a paramedic or whatever their fantasy might be.  But even these supposedly harmless people can potentially risk public safety and lives if they take it too far.

  • Apprehended in 2004, a man described by a Crown Court judge as ‘a menace to society’ impersonated a police officer, wearing the uniform to check vehicles and attend road collisions. He also posed as a paramedic, wearing the uniform and going as far as setting up a fake ambulance service to transport patients.
  • In 2015 an ‘obsessed fantasist’ was apprehended after a history of pretending to be a paramedic, including driving a fake ambulance with fluorescent markings and blue flashing lights and posing as a paramedic in an attempt to steal confidential documents from the London Ambulance Service

But criminals are also impersonating police officers to carry out crimes. Despite the Police Act 1996 making it a criminal offence, this still continues. In 2021 the Metropolitan Police issued a warning that criminals are impersonating officers to gain entry to private houses, following an incident caught on camera in East London.

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Impersonating Company Employees

For others, this isn’t limited to impersonating the emergency services.

  • In 2019 a man posing as an Amazon delivery driver used this false identity to enter a Luton home, violently assaulting family members and committing robbery before fleeing.
  • The Metropolitan Police have also issued a warning about criminals pretending to be from a care agency, the council or a utility company investigating a gas or water leak to enter people’s homes with the intent to commit robbery.

Any attempt to impersonate a company employee can have serious consequences. If a company is found to be negligent in controlling access to uniforms or forms of identity it can face severe financial penalties. The negative publicity such an incident generates can erode customer confidence and share worth.

Suppose impersonation is used to access restricted areas within the company. In that case, this can potentially lead to a breach of GDPR data protection laws, loss of commercially-sensitive data and intellectual property or theft of company assets.

How To Reduce The Risk

A robust policy on controlling the availability and use of uniforms and other identifying assets can be an effective deterrent to unlawful impersonation.

  • Place serial numbered tags inside clothing to act as a deterrent and help track a security breach in the event of an apprehended incident
  • Keep a close control on inventory with a ‘sign-out’ for new and replacement uniforms and a ‘sign-in’ for returned items
  • Securely destroy all redundant uniforms and identity documents.

Avena provides a secure garment destruction service to public and private sector organisations, ensuring the risk of impersonation is minimised by destroying uniforms that

  • are damaged beyond reasonable repair
  • have been worn by former employees and cannot be reassigned to other personnel
  • have been superseded by a new design (the old design may still be an effective deception)

As an ISO 14001 Environmental Management Certified company we handle all textile waste in an environmentally responsible manner, with the fibres that are a by-product of the destruction process going into making sound-deadening panels for products such as office screens and vehicles interiors.

If you would like to know more about our secure textile destruction and recycling services, give us a call today on 0845 5219 892.