SPRINGVILLE — In late January, a 21-year-old woman told the New York State Police that she had been pulled over by an individual the police said may have been impersonating an officer of the law.
The woman was stopped at 2:30 p.m. on Route 98 in Arcade, by a man driving a dark blue, four-door sedan, with blue lights on the windshield.
According to the woman reporting this incident, the car also sported a police emblem on its side. She described the man who stopped her as a 6-foot-tall, white individual in his 30s or 40s. He was wearing a blue uniform, but had on no badge.
Springville Police Chief John Fox said that no instances of citizens’ impersonating police officers have been reported in the Springville area, but gave several warnings for drivers to heed, should they become suspicious of someone who pulls them over.
“Stop in a very lighted area, if you are pulled over at night,” he said. “If you are on a stretch of road where there’s no lighting, keep going, until you get to lights or businesses.”
Fox said that the Springville Police Department does not operate any unmarked cars. However, the Erie County Sheriff’s Department does possess a gray, unmarked car, which is sometimes utilized in Springville.
“If they are in an unmarked car, they will still be in uniform,” he said, of law enforcement officers’ utilizing vehicles without badges, graphics or visible lights. “Only a detective would not be in uniform, and most of them have badges’ hanging around their neck or on their belt. They probably wouldn’t be stopping someone, anyway. They are mostly out investigating.”
New York State Police Captain Steven Graap said that, if a driver is pulled over by someone he or she deems suspicious, “put on emergency flashers with hazard lights. Slow down to a speed that the individual or person behind you that’s trying to stop you, that they understand, and know that you’re reacting to their attempt to pull you over. Also, call 911, if you have a cell phone.”
Fox said that police officers must show drivers their badges and identification, if requested. “In the event that someone does not want to give you their information, dial 911 and say where you are and what you were stopped for,” he said.
The police chief also advised that drivers tell the 911 operator they speak to as much detail as possible, about the car that stopped them.
“When the police officer lets you go, dial 911 and ask to speak with a police dispatcher and tell them where you are,” he said. “Ask for a local individual. They can come out and meet you.”
A similar incident was reported, several years ago, in Elma. Fox said that a volunteer firefighter, who had a flashing red light situated on his dashboard, “would pull over pretty girls. Once he had their driver’s licenses, he would go back and copy everything down and then he’d have all of their information.” That individual was later apprehended.
According to New York state law, pretending to be a police officer, wearing police uniforms, badges or insignia without authority, or indicating that a person is acting “with the approval or authority of any police department” is criminal impersonation.
Suspects convicted of criminally impersonating a police officer, which is a misdemeanor, face up to a year in jail.
The state police may be contacted at 585-344-6200 or 759-6831. For more information, visit www.troopers.ny.gov.