Michael Snyder was arrested last Monday in Metro Detroit for impersonating a federal officer on Interstate 96 in Livingston County, following prior incidents of police impersonation and aggressive behavior.
He is currently in custody awaiting a preliminary hearing, at which a judge in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit will decide whether there is probable cause for Snyder to stand trial based on his most recent actions. However, as Snyder’s current charges are weighed, investigators have unearthed records of his past indiscretions. One of the most notable incidents, according to their findings, took place in Ann Arbor just last year.
Snyder’s most recent encounter with the police occurred on the evening of Oct. 27, after he allegedly attempted to pull a woman over on the highway by illegally flashing blue-and-red lights from his truck.
According to court records, Snyder then approached the woman’s car and told her she had been driving like a “f—— a——,” all while posing as a federal agent. The woman did not believe Snyder was indeed a federal agent, drawing suspicion from the Texas license plates on his vehicle, and drove away. She immediately called 911, and was able to follow Snyder’s truck until the authorities arrived. Snyder denied the woman’s claims, but he was arrested and his truck was towed. The police obtained a search warrant for Snyder’s truck, where they found aftermarket lights that matched the woman’s description. Further investigation also revealed Synder had been storing a collection of weapons and tactical gear in his home.
Prior to his most recent arrest, Snyder racked up a criminal record by falsely identifying himself as a police officer in multiple other areas such as El Paso, Texas and Ann Arbor. He was not prosecuted for the Ann Arbor incident, which took place in June 2018, but witnesses at the scene alleged he harassed three other men under the guise of a police officer, and appeared to call for backup before the real authorities arrived.
Though Snyder’s actions do not appear to reflect a broader trend in Ann Arbor crime, they have raised concerns about students’ general safety in the area. For instance, Art & Design junior Claire Manor has been pulled over in Ann Arbor herself and fears she may not have known how to react if she did not feel comfortable with the way she was treated.
“I currently have a car on campus and drive almost everyday to class, as my classes are on North Campus,” Manor said. “I grew up in a small town where everyone knew who the cops were, so it has never occurred to me that I could ask to see an officer’s credentials. I have only been pulled over once in Ann Arbor for having my brights on and was let go with a warning, but I could tell the officer was looking for something else to ticket me for. It scares me how easily intimidated many people, including myself, are by police officers as it makes it difficult to speak up if something seems wrong when confronted by police.”
In light of such concerns, Acting Lieutenant Shane Dennis of the Ann Arbor Police Department shared some recommendations to keep in mind if you believe a police officer may not be who they say they are.
“We would recommend, if you do not believe they are police… ask for their credentials,” Dennis said. “We are required to carry our city-issued ID with us that identifies us as police officers. Depending on the situation, at the traffic stop, pull to an area that is well-lit and has a lot of traffic. Try not to stop in areas that are dark or (do not have) a lot of people around.”
As both a student at the University of Michigan and a member of the University Police Department Oversight Committee, medical graduate student Whit Froehlich also stepped in to share some more information about how students can raise any concerns they may have about an encounter with a member of the University of Michigan Police Department as well.
“If you or another student has any concerns about an interaction with UMPD, we are always open for submissions,” Froehlich said. “You can reach out to us. That is our role as the Oversight Committee. We are required by state law to ensure that the University’s police department is sufficiently responsive to the campus community.”
Additionally, for those who are not familiar with the role of the UMPD Oversight Committee, Froehlich mentioned that the group is making a concerted effort to raise awareness about their cause in hopes of forming a more direct line of communication with students.