Man 'posing as police officer' arrested on suspicion of kidnapping girl

15 October 2021, 12:49 | Updated: 15 October 2021, 17:12

File photo of a Sussex Police officer
File photo of a Sussex Police officer. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A man arrested on suspicion of impersonating a police officer to search a teenage girl's clothing allegedly approached her as she went to school.

Sussex Police said a man wearing a high-viz jacket approached the 14-year-old in Crawley on Wednesday morning.

He then searched her clothing before cycling off.

Police launched enquiries and a 32-year-old man was arrested on Thursday. He has been held in custody for interview.

Superintendent Marc Clothier said: "We understand that this arrest will impact communities. The girl is safe and unharmed and is receiving support from officers, working with her family.

Read more: Under-fire Met tells women to 'wave down a bus' if they feel in danger during arrest

"We want to reassure people we have not received any similar reports at this time and there is no current risk to anyone in the community in relation to this case.

"You will see more uniformed patrols in the area and we encourage you to stop and talk to us if you have any concerns.

"If you have any information that would assist our investigation, please call us on 101, quoting Operation Lonsdale.

"If you do see any behaviour that causes you concern, please always call 999 right away."

It comes amid increased scrutiny on lone officers, with Met Police guidance suggesting anyone speaking to one should try to verify their identity - and if they feel uncomfortable, to try and flee.

That was issued in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard, who was detained and kidnapped by Wayne Couzens when he used his status as an officer to falsely arrest her.

"We understand some people may want additional reassurance when interacting with a lone police officer and when you are alone," Supt Clothier said.

"If this is the case, genuine officers can use their police radio on loudspeaker to talk to the operator in the police control room.

"The operator can confirm the identity of the officer, that they are on duty and carrying out legitimate policing business.

"You can also ask a passer-by to observe. Off-duty officers intervening in a crime in action or where someone is vulnerable, and not carrying a radio, will quickly call 999 for back up."