Security guard at south Charlotte bar posed as CMPD officer for years, owner says

The owner of a south Charlotte bar says they were duped for years by a man who worked as a security guard at the business by posing as a police officer.

Earlier this week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said they arrested Stephen Burke Bridges, 29, for impersonating an officer using a stolen badge.

Bridges allegedly took pictures of himself posing as a CMPD officer and presented himself as an officer to get a job working security at Jeff’s Bucket Shop, a popular karaoke bar near the Park Road Shopping Center.

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Jeff Laria, owner of Jeff’s Bucket Shop, told Channel 9′s Glenn Counts he was blindsided by the allegations. He said Bridges worked security at the bar for three years and was able to maintain the ruse, because he apparently knew what he was doing.

“Stephen Bridges is a very likeable person, he took everybody by surprise, for sure,” Laria said. “He was a very good guy, he was probably our best security guy. Anytime there was a situation that needed to be defused, he was the guy. He could defuse a situation probably as well as anybody we’ve ever had.”

CMPD said Bridges never worked for the department, but he did have a legitimate badge and a uniform. Both were determined to be stolen, according to police.

He was arrested late Wednesday in the bars’ parking lot.

A police report says that Alcoholic Beverage Control Officers did an inspection at Jeff’s Bucket Shop on Dec. 3, and the owners of the bar mentioned that Bridges was a CMPD officer. One of the owners said Bridges had conducted background checks on potential employees because he said he was an officer. CMPD said investigators got the tip, and the department “quickly got warrants” on Wednesday to arrest Bridges.

“He even had a picture with him holding a plaque where he had received an award for saving an older gentleman that was having trouble breathing or something at a strip plaza,” Laria told Channel 9. “How are you not supposed to believe that?”

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Bridges is facing three charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer, possession of stolen goods, and carrying a concealed weapon.

Lee Ratliff, the founder of Professional Security Services, told Channel 9 earlier this week that there is a process for how businesses can hire off-duty officers.

“If an officer just approaches a bar and says, ‘Hey, I just want to come over here and provide security for your business and you can pay me directly,’ that right there is a red flag. That’s not the way that the system is set up,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff told Channel 9 that if a business in Charlotte wants to hire an off-duty officer, the business has to contact Secondary Employment, a division of CMPD, and the business will receive a permit. The Secondary Employment division will also post those jobs that officers can apply for.

According to CMPD, Bridges didn’t perform any official acts or conduct any traffic stops. Investigators said they believe this is an isolated incident.

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