Is it just me or does it seem like ever since the pandemic people have gotten crazier? It sure seems that way. Or maybe it’s just that everyone has a smartphone these days and can capture video of everything going on. Whatever the case may be, it seems like we hear about crazier and crazier things every day. And apparently, as if we don’t have enough to worry about these days, there’s yet another thing. To add to the long laundry list of things people need to be on the lookout for is … fake cops. RELATED: An Ex-Cop Has Pulled Over Vehicles For This Reason – Save Yourself Headaches and Hassles With This Car Rental Tip
In recent days, I’ve read multiple stories about men impersonating police officers and pulling drivers over. It happens more than you might think, including just a few days ago, here in California.
According to KTLA, “A person accused of impersonating a police officer and conducting illegal traffic stops in the City of Industry has been arrested by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies. The arrest was announced Wednesday by the LASD Industry Station. The unidentified person allegedly made multiple unlawful stops in the East Valinda area near Nogales High School, officials said.”
The photos, shared by the Sheriff’s Department, explain how easily someone can be been fooled. The suspect was wearing a complete law enforcement officer’s uniform and using a motorcycle that looked almost exactly like an official police bike.
It’s not just in California where you have to be on the lookout. I know it happens overseas but last year, a man was arrested in Colorado. Per CBS News: “Brighton Police Department says a man impersonating an officer chose the wrong car to pull over on Saturday afternoon on Interstate 76.
His big mistake? The car he tried to stop was being driven by an actual officer, an off-duty deputy with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Doh! Fearing for his safety, the off-duty deputy pulled his gun on the man and detained him. Jose Flores Ortiz was arrested and “charged with impersonating a peace officer, driving under the influence of alcohol, and prohibited use of a weapon, among other charges.”
— Olivia Young (@OliviaYoungTV) September 6, 2022
In July of 2022, “a man from Waterbury, Connecticut was arrested by police in Holyoke, Massachusetts for impersonating a police officer, according to KKTV. Roberto Ruiz-Montanez, 51, was charged with disturbing the peace and impersonating a police officer. The incident started around 3:15 a.m. on Saturday. A resident flagged down an officer to report that a man was bothering a woman at a Holyoke address.”
A month earlier, CBS 8 in San Diego reported, Michael Carmichael, “a 21-year-old man suspected of posing as a sheriff’s deputy and pulling over drivers in northern San Diego County over the last 10 months, while driving a car outfitted with law enforcement-style flashing lights.”
It seems Carmichael may have had good intentions as his attorney told the judge that he never tried to assault any of the drivers he pulled over. “Instead, Carmichael allegedly stopped the drivers because he thought he was a cop and the drivers were breaking traffic laws, the prosecutor said.” Driving in California is nowhere near as bad as, say, South Florida, but every time I’m on the roads, I definitely see a driver or two who deserve to be pulled over by a cop.
I remember once in high school, one of my prankster friends pulled me aside at a party and told me that he’d just bought a red flashing strobe light, a public address system and high-powered flashlights for his car, which was similar to a police car. He wanted my help to freak our friends out.
Neither of us drank alcohol but I can’t say the same about our friends who were having a small party in a park behind some tall hedges one summer night. I wish I had it on video because it was seriously one of the funniest things I’ve ever done. The look of our friends’ faces when we came flying around the corner with the lights on, flashlights shining, ordering them to drop the beers and watching them run was classic. It was stupid, of course, but we lived in a quiet town so the chances of us getting busted or anyone getting hurt seemed slim.
That was a longer time ago than I’d like to admit and those were different times. I’d never recommend something like that these days.
So, how do you know if you’re being pulled over by a real cop or a fake one? According to CNN, there are few tells you should be on the lookout for. “First, have you done something to deserve being pulled over? If you’ve been driving within 5-mph of the posted speed limit and haven’t broken any traffic laws that you’re aware of, your guard should be up if all of a sudden there’s an unmarked car on your tail with its lights flashing — especially if it’s out in the middle of nowhere and late at night. While radar traps are a reality, most of the time, we get pulled over for a reason — and we know perfectly well what it is. So if you honestly haven’t done anything wrong that you’re aware of — and the “officer” just appeared out of nowhere — you’re right to be suspicious — particularly if you are female and traveling alone.”
The article goes on to say that if the vehicle pulling you over is not a clearly marked police cruiser, you should slow down and signal that you’re going to pull over, “but only do so when you can find a well-lit, public place with other people around, such as a shopping mall parking lot.”
You should get a good look at the person pulling you over, as well as at their credentials. The CNN article says, “if the ‘officer’ is not in uniform, refuses to show you his badge — or just flashes it briefly, so you can’t get a good look — keep that window rolled up and those doors locked tightly.”
And if the ‘officer’ behaves strangely, trust your gut. Ask to see identification and if the ‘officer’ threatens you, acts unprofessionally, pounds on your car or exhibits any other alarming behavior, then it might be time to start your engine and let him know that you’re uncomfortable but that you’ll follow him or let him escort you to the nearest police station.
However, the Brighton Police Department says: “If you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t pull over and put down your window for a vehicle you suspect is not law enforcement. Instead, drive at a safe speed, and turn your hazards on. Then call 911 to confirm if the person pulling you over is a member of law enforcement. They also recommend familiarizing yourself with the vehicles of your local law enforcement agencies.”
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