Phony officer arrested

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Local police are asking anyone who might have had an encounter with an Alabaster man pretending to be a police officer to come forward, a week after a Hoover woman reported she was pulled over and groped by the uniformed phony on Highway 261 in Helena.

John Matthew Harper, 32, is being held without bond at the Shelby County Jail on charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer and first-degree sexual abuse, according to Helena Police Capt. Tim Carter.

&8220;Our concern is that there may be other victims who have not reported an instance with this man,&8221; Carter said.

Helena police received a call from a 20-year-old Hoover woman just after midnight Nov. 28, reporting that she had been pulled over by a man in a white Crown Victoria with a red light.

The woman was then ordered out of the car by the impersonator, who was wearing what appeared to be a police uniform and cap.

&8220;Conducting what he called a pat-down search, he got extremely aggressive with her, touching her breasts and genital areas,&8221; Carter said.

&8220;He then told her to get back in her car and go home.&8221;

Helena police responded to the call by sending out a notification to surrounding agencies, including the Alabaster Police Department, where an officer recognized the vehicle description and pinpointed the suspect in Saginaw.

Officials were able to obtain an arrest warrant for Harper, who was also identified by the Hoover woman in a photo lineup.

Anyone with information regarding the case should contact local authorities or the Helena Police Department at 663-6499.

Carter stressed that most legitimate law enforcement agencies &8212; including state, county and local agencies &8212;

use the same standard for light bars on their official vehicles.

&8220;Law enforcement will use a combination of both blue and red lights.&8221;

In the case of unmarked vehicles with no light bars, Carter suggested acknowledging the officer and finding a well-lit location, preferably with people around, before pulling over