Local News


Concerns about sales of former police vehicles

Posted at 10:45 PM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 16:47:15-05

Looking like a cop is easy if you're a savvy shopper with a few thousand bucks. 

Used law enforcement vehicles are bought and sold all the time, but county leaders say what Contact 13 uncovered simply isn't safe.

It's illegal to dress and pose as a cop, but looking like one while driving is not. And our own government agencies will help you do it.

Three times a year, Clark County holds government surplus auctions where you can buy retired police cars. One was just held last weekend.

Most of the folks who attend the auctions are likely just looking for a good deal, but some could be up to no good.

In late 2010, a suspected police impersonator was arrested and police say his car looked like the real deal.

The car was a retired Nevada Highway Patrol cruiser. And investigators said suspect Bradley Wedge used it to pull over at least five vehicles in eight months.

"It's not good for those vehicles to be out in the public," said Michal Manda of Las Vegas Auto Sports. He had clients who did something similar with a Highway Patrol vehicle purchased in Washington state.

"So they were driving in Henderson and they actually got pulled over over there because they were going behind people and turning the lights on."

We found a police car that's about as real-looking as it gets. It's an older model that's mostly been rented out for use in movies, but it's for sale right now on Craigslist. 

If you've got $4,000, it can be yours.

"Well, that should not be allowed," said County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak. "And you're impersonating an officer, as far as I'm concerned, if you're driving that vehicle."

Contact 13 spotted many retired law enforcement vehicles on valley roads in the past few months that still look very much like cop cars.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says beginning in 2013, they started painting all decommissioned patrol vehicles solid white, and removing push bumpers, spotlights and residual adhesive left behind from removing decals. 

But at a recent government auction, Contact 13 found striping, spotlights and visible markings on motorcycles and cars alike.

Commissioner Sisolak was most disturbed by the Clark County School District cop cars, which could give anyone easy access to school campuses.

"I can't see why anyone would want to buy the vehicle and have police markings on there unless they were gonna use it for something that it shouldn't be used for," he said.

CCSD police say it's too labor intensive and cost-prohibitive to remove all the markings. And they don't believe anyone would confuse the decommissioned vehicles for working cop cars. 

There is no law that says you have to make it look like a civilian vehicle before you sell it. 

"If they're not going to do it voluntarily, then I think it should be addressed by Nevada Revised Statutes that the vehicles have to look like a regular pedestrian or regular citizenry vehicles," said Sisolak.

No one from LVMPD would go on-camera for this story. They do not keep statistics on how many decommissioned patrol vehicles are used in crimes or to impersonate officers.

We also reached out to Henderson Police, North Las Vegas Police and Nevada Highway Patrol. All say it's their policy to scrub vehicles clean of law enforcement markings before selling them.