Gina Mace

CUYAHOGA FALLS: Police Lt. Perry Tabak thought right away that the teen strolling out of the East Bath Road Circle K on Saturday looked too young to be carrying a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Tabak said the teen was stopped and his identification checked. His hunch was correct.

Not only was the teen just 17, but he was also a member of the Cuyahoga Falls Police Explorers program.

The clerk told police when she asked the boy for his identification, he chuckled and moved his shirt aside to show her a police badge.

Falls police Chief Thomas Pozza said the clerk thought she was selling the drinks to a police officer.

“She assumed if he’s a police officer, he must be over 21,” Pozza said.

The badge issued to teen police explorers reads “Cuyahoga Falls Police Cadet,” Pozza said. It is only to be worn on the Explorers uniform.

“If you don’t know what you’re looking at, I suppose you could surmise it’s a police badge,” he said.

The teen was charged with impersonating a police officer and underage purchase of alcohol. His Explorer equipment and uniform were confiscated. The program is designed to introduce teens to the field of law enforcement.

Tabak had been eyeballing the comings and goings at the store as part of a sting to nab sellers and buyers of liquor in the city to curtail underage drinking.

The East Bath Road store was among a dozen businesses targeted over the weekend.

Although the clerk was not charged with selling the hard lemonade to a minor, that doesn’t mean she won’t be making a trip to court.

While police checked the boy’s identification, Tabak sent an 18-year-old woman who agreed to work undercover into the store.

Pozza said the woman was also able to purchase the alcohol illegally.

The clerk is one of four charged that night with selling alcohol to underage customers.

Businesses where the other clerks were charged are: One Stop N Shop, 344 Tallmadge Road; 7-Eleven, 1205 Main St., and Bailey Road Mini-Mart, 2810 Bailey Road.

Pozza said it is disappointing that a third of the businesses checked flunked the test.

“All four places looked at her ID — a legitimate ID showing she is 18 years old — and still sold it,” he said.

Gina Mace can be reached at ginamace2@gmail.com.