Durham police say Roe Jones, 24, attempted to look and sound just like one of them. When he attacked the Duke student, they say he played the role of security guard. After searching his apartment, police found the tools of his trade. Jones was arrested Monday.
"We found a brown belt, which is what our uniformed patrol officers wear," Durham police Cpl. Fran Borden said.
Borden says the search turned up a police belt, a security guard's uniform and notebooks with police lingo - signs that Jones was learning the language to go with his look.
"Evidently he had practiced or rehearsed what he said to people such as, 'I'm so and so from the Durham police and I'm going to conduct a security check of your residence,'" Borden said.
It's a performance that could compromise the power of real police officers.
"We just can't let anyone go out and get a police uniform," Borden said.
The reality is that anyone can buy official police equipment at police supply stores. Al Sutton, a Raleigh supply store owner, says he screens customers carefully.
"I have a wife and daughter and wouldn't want them to get stopped by a blue light bandit so to speak," Sutton said.
The public can buy some police accessories at the store, but Sutton will not sell anything that identifies someone as a police officer - unless a real police officer is waiting at the counter.
Sutton says that anybody can order police equipment from mail order magazines, where a credit card is the only credential required.
"You can build a police car and get a uniform for yourself to fit in it," Sutton said.
Durham police do not know how the police equipment seized Monday was obtained. But based on what they found, police do believe there are more victims who have not called them. Reporter: Todd HauerPhotographer: John Cox