There is a story in Colosse about a man going around and impersonating a police officer. He hasn’t done anything awful yet, but whatever his motives are they are assumed not to be good. The police are “reminding” everybody that any time you’re pulled over if you have doubts over the authenticity of the officer to find a well-lit and/or well-populated place to pull over. It’s considered a rule that as long as a person doesn’t make an attempt to flee, they should be given latitude as to where or when to pull over.

The problem with this is that when you’re being pulled over, you don’t know if the officer in the car behind you knows and understands this rule. Further, you don’t know that even if the rules should cut in your favor, whether you are doing yourself considerable harm by invoking them. It’s sort of like how you legally can’t be asked various questions on job interviews such as what your wife does but if you ever invoke this it’ll hurt you all the same (I had a post a while back on how my employers keep asking me what my wife does and they’re not supposed to do that, but I can’t find the post).

The first time I was ever pulled over I was sixteen and scared out of my mind. I was in the left hand lane and I didn’t know whether I was supposed to find some place on the left to pull over or to pull over to the right. We hadn’t gone two blocks before the officer was blaring “Pull over to the right or you will be arrested!” I got my answer, got pulled over, got a lecture and ultimately didn’t end up getting a ticket (I think that he thought I was a drunk driver which of course I proved not to be).

Of course, that pales in comparison to the case of Dibor Roberts. She was on a rural desert road when she was caught by an officer going 65 in a 50. She didn’t want to stop in a dark area and so slowed down and continued to drive. The officer ended up pulling in front of her and stopping (which is against protocol, apparently), busted threw her window, and allegedly got into an altercation with her that resulted in his foot getting run over and her getting arrested, tried, and convicted of assorted crimes. The officer says that he did what he did to “get control of the situation” and that it was her fault for not successfully communicating to the officer that did intent to stop at the next available, well-lit opportunity.

Noteworthy here is that the authorities in Colosse and indeed the website of the Arizona jurisdiction where Dibor was pulled over don’t actually say anything about having to communicate your intention to stop in order to avoid getting your window smashed out and going to jail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good idea to signal or turn on your hazards and it may be common sense to do so, but common sense slips one’s mind in high stress situations. And if it’s so obvious, of course, it should be mentioned as part of the whole schpiel about waiting to pull over every single time.

Granted, generally speaking when cops talk about this they’re talking about unmarked cars. It’s extremely rare that impersonators will actually mark their car up. However, when we’re talking about a “well-lit” place, we’re assuming darkness. Whenever I’m pulled over at night I can’t read the markings on the side of the car. I can’t in the daytime, either, though I recognize police cars by the bumper on their grill, other equipment and the full-class sedans they usually ride in. Of course, I should note here that sometimes they go out of their way to make it harder to tell.

I am getting worried that between Web and I this site is becoming anti-cop. I certainly don’t intend it to. Though I think sometimes things get out of hand I think that cops are in general a good group of people. My wife’s cousin, who hosted our rehearsel dinner years ago, is a state trooper. When I was dating Julie, I got to know a lot of Phillippi cops because her father was a volunteer fireman and there was a lot of overlap. Tracey’s Dad was a cop. Until I realized how temperamentally unsuited for it I was, I considered going into police work. I don’t envy them or their job. I just get a little annoyed sometimes when they sometimes say “You need to trust us” (in this case not to go berzerk if you don’t pull over right away) and then pull stunts like the Roberts case and line up in support of officers that do.

Category: Courthouse

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5 Responses to Impersonating A Perp

  1. Webmaster says:

    There’s a set of videos ALL citizens should see:

    Don’t talk to the cops ever (same advice, given by both a defense lawyer AND a professional cop):
    Part 1
    Part 2

    BUSTED: The Citizens’ Guide to Police Encounters:
    Full series of Flex Your Rights videos
    Flex Your Rights website

    Of course, in my one ticket experience with Southern Tech PD, I followed the advice of pulling into a well-lit area (parked under a streetlight in the parking lot ~150 ft from where the lights went off, rather than parking on the street under a tree), and I got cussed out by the cop for not pulling over “immediately” despite making no escape attempt and parking somewhere intended to be much safer for us both.

    The basic point: if the police want the general populace to trust them, they need to understand they are naturally fighting an uphill battle, and they need definitely to understand that one bad experience for one person is going to undo the good PR work of 1000 or more good interactions. People are normally psychologically programmed to remember the bad, and they also will share a story that made them mad with a lot more people.

    I give pretty wide latitude to cops who are doing real cop work, dealing with gangs/drugs/theft/etc. Cops on a traffic beat, unfortunately, not only lose my respect for the number of shenanigans I’ve both witnessed and seen in the news, but for the ways in which I know that the traffic system is rigged to be completely unfair to anyone that cop pulls over.

    Of course, the upside of this is that all I have to do to not be on a traffic jury (or probably any jury of any kind) is admit that I’ve seen the three Youtube videos above. There are few things a prosecutor will hate worse than a juror who actually knows what rights a civilian is supposed to have.

  2. trumwill says:

    Thanks for the link to that second video, Web. I saw the first half posted here there and everywhere and was curious what the cop had to say. I was actually mulling over a post on the first half of the video.

  3. Webmaster says:

    I found it extremely interesting that the cop had exactly the same things to say as the lawyer regarding when you should assert your 5th amendment rights (namely, every time the cops or any part of the prosecution talks to you, until you’re in court).

  4. Peter says:

    Cops on a traffic beat, unfortunately, not only lose my respect for the number of shenanigans I’ve both witnessed and seen in the news, but for the ways in which I know that the traffic system is rigged to be completely unfair to anyone that cop pulls over.

    It’s all because of money. Traffic fines are a major revenue source for many local governments, so the system is not designed to give motorists an even break.

  5. Barry says:

    A number of cops have the same mentality that a number of surgeons, politicians, and successful businessmen have: that we (the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free) should feel humbled and privileged to be led by them. That we should understand that in most cases, they are are social betters, and deserve more respect than should be afforded your average guy on the street. Because they have a title, or a badge, or a special degree (medical, law, business) then you and I must look up to them with a bit of awe and some fear of what might happen to us.

    For some it’s just the way things get done. With others, it becomes a way of life and they begin to believe their own press clippings. In my line of work, I hear reports time and time again from nurses and marketers working with docs on how heavy-handed, abusive, tempermental and immature they can be on many subjects. They have to be treated with deference and kid gloves, because they can easily move their referrals to a rival hospital. And we can’t have that. So they get what they want, whenever they want.

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