‘Kid cop’ no longer a kid, charged again with posing as the police

Rosemary Sobol, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read

A 26-year-old man who once told police, “I know what it’s like to be you,” and who was has been arrested multiple times over the past 12 years for impersonating a police officer has been busted again on the city’s Near West Side, police said.

Vincent Richardson, who made national headlines when he was able to pass himself off as a police officer at only 14, was arrested Wednesday in the 5000 block of Lincoln Avenue in the suburb of Lisle, where he currently lives, Chicago police said.

Richardson was charged with three counts of felony impersonation of a police officer, police said. He was also wanted on a warrant.

Richardson is accused of pretending to be a Chicago police sergeant three times: on Jan. 14, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 — all in the 2300 block of West Jackson Boulevard, in the city’s 12th Police District.

Details about the circumstances were not immediately available.

Richardson has a long history of impersonating the police, beginning when he was 14. In that incident, in 2009, he was so convincing that he went on patrol with a real officer for more than five hours on the South Side, driving a squad car and even making an arrest before police caught on. He was even assigned a radio.

Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley furiously called out police. “Where is the desk sergeant? The field lieutenant? The captain on duty?” he said. In all, 14 officers, including the captain running the watch during Richardson’s shift and seven sergeants, were brought up on departmental charges, according to an Internal Affairs report on the incident obtained by the Tribune under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report faulted supervising officers for being unaware of Richardson’s presence, while the patrol officers were taken to task for not noticing he was an impostor and not properly notifying their superiors to the presence of an officer from another district.

When he was 19, in 2013, Richardson pretended he was an Englewood District police officer when he tried to buy police equipment, including a duty belt, cargo shorts, pants and a shirt, at a uniform store.

While being detained at the store, he allegedly told the real police: “I know what it’s like to be one of you. … I respect you because I did it for a day chasing and helping people. My intentions are never to hurt people, just to help.”

At 21, in 2015, Richardson was arrested with another man after police stopped their car while investigating a call of shots fired in the 1200 block of West Marquette Road in Englewood, according to police. Richardson and the other man, Dantrell Moore, also 21, were wearing bulletproof vests and had a police duty belt, a scanner, a BB gun and a stun gun, police said.

Richardson at that time was charged with a felony count of impersonating a police officer.

At 22, Richardson had spent 11 months in jail before pleading guilty to his third police impersonation charge — this time for being in possession of policelike gear during a May 2015 traffic stop.

Originally from the Englewood neighborhood, he is the oldest of three sons raised by a single mother and said exposure to a youth police Explorer club at the Englewood police station and the older male officers changed his life.

During an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s William Lee, it was clear this wasn’t an act for him and he often talked about “being on both sides” of the badge, as both a cop and a civilian. He expressed support both for officers working the beat and young men caught up in a web of aggressive policing. He talked comfortably about the allure of being in a “law enforcement family.”

rsobol@chicagotribune.com