CHARLOTTE — A South Charlotte bar owner said he was duped for years by a man who worked as a security guard at his business under the guise of a police officer.
Earlier this week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced it had arrested 29-year-old Stephen Burke-Bridges for impersonating a police officer using a stolen badge.
Bridges allegedly took pictures posing as a CMPD officer and posing as a police officer in order to land a security job at Jeff’s Bucket Shop, a popular karaoke bar near the Park Road Shopping Center.
Jeff Laria, owner of Jeff’s Bucket Shop, told Channel 9’s Glenn Counts that he was caught off guard by the allegations. He said Bridges was his three-year security guard at the bar and was able to keep up the ruse.
“Stephen Bridges is a very likeable person. He certainly surprised everyone,” said Laria. “He was such a nice guy and probably our best security guard. Whenever there was a situation that needed to be dealt with, he was the man. I could have broken it.”
According to CMPD, Bridges never worked in the department, but had a regular badge and uniform. Police said they were all found stolen.
He was arrested in the bar’s parking lot late Wednesday.
According to a police report, alcohol enforcement officers conducted a search at Jeff’s Bucket Shop on Dec. 3, and the bar’s owner said Bridges was a CMPD official. One of the owners said Bridges conducted background checks on potential employees because he said he was an executive. Investigators got the information and the agency “immediately obtained a warrant” and arrested Bridges on Wednesday, CMPD said.
“He even had a picture of him holding an award-winning plaque for saving an elderly gentleman on the Strip Square who had trouble breathing or something,” Laria told Channel 9. “
Bridges faces three charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer, possessing stolen property, and carrying a concealed weapon.
Lee Ratliff, founder of Professional Security Services, told Channel 9 earlier this week that companies have processes on how to hire off-duty employees.
“If a cop walks up to a bar and says, ‘Hey come here, I just want to provide security for your business, so please pay me directly,’ that’s a red flag. It’s not the way it is,” said Ratliff.
Ratliff told Channel 9 that if a Charlotte business wants to hire off-duty workers, the business must contact Secondary Employment, a division of the CMPD, and the business will receive a permit. We also post jobs that officers can apply for.
According to CMPD, Bridges did not perform any official action or stop traffic. Investigators believe this is an isolated incident.
(See below: CMPD officer charged with DUI after being found in police car along I-277, chief says)
©2022 Cox Media Group