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Trust but verify

Posted: March 13, 2017 4:31 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.

We received an interesting question generated in response to a recent crime report we published in the March 3 edition of the C-I. Specifically, the story was about a woman from out of state who reported she was robbed by an individual impersonating a police officer. According to the report, the woman stated an unmarked vehicle with a lone blue light on the dash board pulled her over; when she stopped, a man wearing a hoodie robbed her at gunpoint. 

So just what can you do if you are not sure the vehicle trying to pull you over is a legitimate law enforcement officer?

Sheriff Jim Matthews pointed out most law enforcement agencies have unmarked units in service, but they generally are equipped with enough blue lights so there is no mistaking who they are when the time comes to identify themselves. However, if a strange vehicle is flashing headlights at you or a vehicle turns on a single blue light that looks like it might be sitting on the dashboard, it is not unreasonable to proceed to a well-populated and well-lighted area, at a normal speed, before pulling over. It would even be appropriate to roll down the window and signal that you are proceeding ahead. 

It is also appropriate, if you have some concern, to call 911 and tell the dispatchers someone is behind you with blue lights and you are checking to make sure they are legitimate. A legitimate traffic stop will always be called in by the officer initiating the stop.

This is not meant to suggest people should call 911 every time they are pulled over in a traffic stop. Obviously, the vast majority of the time people know the officer is legitimate; in fact, they probably know exactly why they are being stopped. But there are times when one may have concerns and it is always appropriate to take steps to alleviate those concerns.

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