This is a first, as far as I know. The FCC’s tried to bluff their way into busts in the past, but not past actual cops.
In June, FCC Enforcement Bureau field agents made a run into Mount Carmel, Tennessee, to investigate unauthorized jamming of a police radio channel in the area (the problem had been going on for months before the FCC got around to sniffing around).
While in town, the agents ran into Mount Carmel and Church Hill police officers not once, but twice, on traffic stops. In both instances, the FCC folks told the local cops that they were part of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Meth Task Force. They had no credentials to back up their claim, and that made the cops suspicious.
Later, after the truth came out, Church Hill Police drafted – but did not issue – arrest warrants for the two FCC agents for impersonating a law enforcement officer. In every state, impersonating a cop is a crime – in many states, it’s a felony (not so in Tennessee, lucky for the FCC).
Quoting Mount Carmel Police Chief Jeff Jackson, “A novel idea would have been to tell the truth — ‘Yeah we’re FCC employees and we’re investigating radio complaints.’ Or, at the very least there’s hundreds of lies they could have told my officers. They happened to pick the one lie that there’s a crime in the books against.”
Fortunately for these rogue field agents, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation intervened and asked for no prosecution – although it is not happy that its good name was sullied by a couple of nimrods.
Chances are, these rogue agents either came from the Enforcement Bureau’s New Orleans or Kansas City field office. I’m thinking the former because the Tennessee cops remarked that the FCC folks were driving an SUV with Alabama license plates.
Just a friendly reminder, folks: FCC field agents are not police. They have no powers of arrest; they carry no weapons; and they cannot coerce anyone into doing anything without the assistance of real police officers. In most cases, these are Federal Marshals, but it’s not unheard of for local cops to lend the FCC a hand, especially in high-pirate areas like south Florida.
Let’s just hope this is a case of a few bad apples, and not some sort of new policy made out of desperation for the FCC’s relatively flaccid field muscle. Reprimands, at the very least, are most definitely in order here. If I were one of the aggrieved in Tennessee, I’d file a complaint with the FCC’s Inspector General to make sure some justice actually gets served.