Police offer tips on spotting police impersonators

Published: May. 13, 2019 at 10:34 PM PDT
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Not all law enforcement cars are marked, but the officers driving them still have the authority to conduct a traffic stop.

“It doesn’t matter; those cars can pull you over just like any other police car can pull you over. It’s the frequency of it, if just not as much as a marked police car,” says Sparks Police Officer Damon O’Connell.

But when you can’t tell who is pulling you over, there are ways to find out. Officer O’Connell says if you feel uneasy about a car trying to pull you over don’t hesitate to call the police.

“If this is to happen, you call 9-1-1. Stay on the phone while driving, into a well-lit, well populated area before you pull over,” says Officer O’Connell.

O’Connell says most unmarked police cars have flashing red and blue lights on the roof of the car, along with in the headlights and on the grill, which is illegal for non-emergency vehicles to have.

“Most of our detectives here in this region, in all of their stops, are going to have more than one officer or detective with them; they are generally not going to be a solo officer stop and they are also going to be wearing police vests with markings on them,” says Officer O’Connell.

Officer O’Connell adds it’s okay to be cautious when the person in question is approaching your car.

“Leave your doors locked and you don’t have to roll down the windows all the way, right. Stay in your vehicle and don’t get out of your car until you know that it’s an actual police officer or detective in plain clothes that’s actually stopping you.”

For the most part, O’Connell says, law enforcement doesn’t typically ask you to get out of your car for safety reasons.

“So if an unmarked police car pulls you over and they ask you to step out and back to their car, I would stay in the car until you have confirmed that it is a legitimate traffic stop and with actual police offers and or detectives,” says Officer O’Connell.

According to O’Connell, impersonating-an-officer incidents are very rare in Northern Nevada, but knowing how to identify a real officer will is the best way to know whom to trust.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019

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