Every so often, you may hear of a victim being pulled over by someone impersonating the authorities. As if being followed by red and white lights wasn’t scary enough, it is now important to know how to distinguish a legit police officer from a phony, while staying calm and cooperative. Keep these three tips in mind the next time you are pulled over and have a suspicious feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Review your driving behavior. Have you done something that warrants being pulled over? If you are driving within the speed limit, uninhibited, and obeying traffic laws, your guard may already be up. Observe your surroundings and the car tailing you. Pull over in a safe, lit area and stay inside the car. If you need to communicate with the officer, do so through a small crack in the window. Keep your cell phone nearby.
Identify the police vehicle. If you are pulled over by a police car with proper state or city markings and lights, it is unlikely there is an imposter inside. Police officers generally drive a limited number of vehicle makes and models, including:
- Police sedans are typically a Ford Crown Victoria, Chevy Impala, Dodge Intrepid, Dodge Charger, Chevy Lumina or Chevy Caprice.
- Police SUVs include a Ford F150, Chevy Tahoe, or Dodge Durango.
Keep in mind, these vehicles are usually newer and in good condition. If the cruiser following you is old or broken down, it may not be genuine.
Take note of the officer. Most police on traffic duty will wear an official uniform, carry proper identification, and act professionally. If the officer is not wearing a uniform, does not have ID, and is in an unmarked car, call 911 immediately to have the dispatcher confirm the officer. They will ask for your location and the make/model of the car that pulled you over. Remain calm and stay in your vehicle until you receive confirmation or further instructions. It is within your rights to request another officer join the scene, go to a police station, or a well lit area before proceeding.
Always be respectful and polite. In the case your hunch is incorrect and you are, in fact, pulled over by a confirmed officer, you do not want to add an “attempt to elude” charge to your traffic violation.