Know how to spot a police impersonator - WRBL

Know how to spot a police impersonator

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With more police patrolling the neighborhood this 4th of July weekend, you may find yourself seeing flashing lights in the rearview mirror, so how do you know if the police officer is real or fake?

Sgt. Darius Farley with the Phenix City Police Department says, "If a car looks older, aged, and maybe not running in good condition, those are some of the things you can spot to identify someone who's impersonating a law enforcement officer."

He says even if it's dark out, there are a number of ways to spot a fake cop. The decals on the side and hood of the police cars are reflective, so they show up at night. You can also tell if the car is real by the lights. Flashing LED bar lights in addition to flashing head lights are equipped on most police cruisers, and police usually give a warning signal first.

"A lot of times we can hit our siren just to let the person know we are law enforcement," says Sgt. Farley. "If that person doesn't comply at that time, then we'll turn to a full siren, which means that it will be continuous. That's letting all the agencies know, all the officers know, that we are engaged in a traffic offense."

If you have doubts about a police car, pull into a public parking lot where there will be witnesses. If that's not possible, call 911. "The dispatcher can let them know that 'yes, this is an officer and he is attempting to pull you over,'" says Sgt. Farley.

Because so many police cars are auctioned off after they're decommissioned, often times with side light still equipped, it's fairly easy to impersonate an officer. Over the years some people have done just that, and Sgt. Farley says it's imperative to be cautious.

"Robbery, homicide, very serious offenses...that's the only reason you would impersonate a police officer," he says. "To try to take advantage of the trust, the public trust that they have, and to try to take advantage of that and get easy money, cash, jewelry, even try to take a person's vehicle."

If you are engaged in a traffic stop, regardless of your doubts, it's a good idea to let them know you intend to pull over by turning on a signal or emergency lights so you can avoid being charged with eluding an officer.

Sgt. Farley says most of the local officers patrolling the streets for the holiday weekend will travel in groups of two or three, so you can look for that as well.

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