Police in Fairfax Say Cop-for-a-Day Failed to Pull Fast One on Real Officer

Police say impostor Steven B. Rivas pulled over a real police officer by flashing lights on his car, right.
Police say impostor Steven B. Rivas pulled over a real police officer by flashing lights on his car, right. (Courtesy Of Fairfax County Polic)
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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What are the odds?

A guy wants to impersonate a police officer, falsely pull over a motorist and maybe commit confusion or even mayhem. And whom does the guy pull over?

A real police officer.

That one-in-a-million scenario actually occurred over the weekend, Fairfax County police said yesterday, resulting in the arrest of a 19-year-old man at his Annandale home and relocation to the Fairfax jail with no bond and no court date for two months.

No one was injured, and police do not think the incident is related to a rash of police impersonation reports last summer.

The phony traffic stop began with a gold 2004 Ford Explorer parked in a lot next to Woodburn Elementary School, on Gallows Road in the Annandale area. About 1 a.m., the Explorer pulled on to Gallows and followed a car as it headed toward the ramp for the Capital Beltway, police said.

As the car was entering the ramp, the Explorer activated blue and white flashing lights installed inside its front grill, as unmarked police cars do. The car's driver, a 31-year-old woman with nine years of experience on the Fairfax force, pulled over.

The driver of the Explorer, whom police identified as Steven B. Rivas, walked up and announced that he was an undercover officer, which would explain why he was wearing what police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell described as a black fleece pullover and gray sweat pants.

The real officer, who was not in uniform and was off duty, replied that she, too, was a police officer. She asked to see the undercover's badge and credentials, Caldwell said.

The bogus undercover officer returned to his vehicle to get those. Apparently not finding them, he sped away, his blue and white lights still flashing, Caldwell said.

Police declined to say whether the real officer pursued the phony officer, but she did get the Explorer's license plate number and called it in to dispatchers. Officers then went to Rivas's home in the 7800 block of Ridgewood Drive and arrested him.

Rivas was charged with impersonating a police officer and abduction, both felonies, and with reckless driving and use of unauthorized lights, both misdemeanors. Court records show he pleaded guilty in June to having an illegally tinted or smoked windshield and was fined $57.

In July, a 17-year-old Loudoun County woman was inappropriately touched by a man who had pulled her over in the Chantilly area, also using flashing blue lights. The man, in a dark four-door sedan, fled when the teen screamed, police said.

There were three other incidents over the summer in which motorists reported being pulled over, but Fairfax police theorized that they might have been actual law-enforcement officers who did not follow through with a full traffic stop.

Police did not identify the officer in Saturday's incident, and they typically do not publicly name crime victims. She was driving her personal car, Caldwell said.

Caldwell said motorists have options when being pulled over. "Pull over in a well-lit spot where you feel safe," Caldwell said, "but be sure to acknowledge the officer. If you're hesitant or have any concern, ask for the officer's official credentials, and you can ask for a uniformed officer to respond" if a non-uniformed officer makes the stop.

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