• Jul 8th 2010 at 12:00AM
  • 196

A 19-year old college girl named Lauren is the heroine of a sensational international urban legend. Her supporting cast includes a rapist posting as a police officer in an unmarked police car, real police officers in marked cruisers, and a police dispatcher. The location? An unlit road on the outskirts of town -- and that town could be anywhere, as this urban legend has had its location changed as it’s circled the globe via e-mail, from Virginia to Australia to Canada to Britain. (For more on this e-mail urban legend, visit Snopes.com.)

The story goes like this: Lauren is pulled over by an unmarked police car but she is suspicious and uses a special phone number to contact the local police to confirm that she is being pulled over by a genuine cop. The surprised dispatcher tells her to keep driving because the car behind her is not a real police car. Within minutes, real officers intercept the imposter who, when arrested, turns out to be a rapist.

Dramatic? Yes. True? Not exactly. While some urban legends are harmless, this tale adds unnecessary fear to the lives of solo drivers. Furthermore, it encourages readers to believe three harmful falsehoods. The first is that there is an epidemic of criminals posing as police officers. The second is that officers in unmarked cruisers can't be trusted. The third is that there are unpublished, secret phone numbers that connect cell phone users to local police agencies.

Do Crooks Really Impersonate Police?

While there are certainly cases of people posing as police officers, when we asked some real police officers about this, they said that the probability of being pulled over by an imposter is remote.

Officer Clarence Williams of the Los Angeles Police Department said, "We have had complaints of officer impersonations during my years on the force. Normally the criminal pulls over a citizen, quickly flashes a badge, and then commits some type of robbery. They steal the citizen's wallet or purse."

Working in a suburb on the border of Detroit, Michigan, Officer Frank Zielinski of Grosse Pointe Farms said, "The crime of impersonating an officer is rare. What we usually see is that when it happens in the suburbs, it tends to be somebody on a power trip. They might pull somebody over, act like a police officer, give the citizen a warning, and then send them on their way. In urban areas, the motivation is usually theft or potentially a car-jacking."

What If You Are Stopped By An Unmarked Police Car?

Many states and municipalities commonly use unmarked police cars for conducting traffic stops. Unmarked cars are valued because they blend in better with other traffic, helping the police nab speeders and other traffic law violators.

AOL Autos has covered the deployment of many non-standard cruisers, so you can be up to date on what most "plain brown wrapper" enforcement vehicles look like. While modern unmarked police cars can easily hide in traffic, with lights blazing it's hard to mistake a stealth cruiser for anything other than cop car on official business. Lights on law-enforcement vehicles are white, red and blue.

Unmarked Police Cars

But what if you're pulled over by an unmarked vehicle that doesn't have red and blue lights? Maybe the driver is not in uniform? If you suspect that you're being pulled over by an imposter, follow these tips and the traffic stop will go more smoothly and be less tense for you and the officer:

1. As soon as you realized that you're being pulled over, activate your vehicle's four-way hazard lights. This tells the officer that you are aware that they are there and that you are complying with his or her request to pull over. Do not drive erratically, speed up, or attempt to elude the officer.

2. Drive safely to the nearest public area or police station. These are locations where police impersonators are less likely to engage victims. If it is nighttime, make sure the area is well lit.

3. If you have a cell phone, dial 911 and ask the dispatcher to verify that an officer attempting to pull you over. If the 911 operator verifies your vehicle description and your location, stop immediately for the officer.

4.If the unmarked cruiser is operated by a plainclothes officer, you may request that a uniformed officer respond to the scene. Remember to be polite and non-threatening.

For more tips on what to do during a traffic stop, AOL correspondent Kevin Ransom recently interviewed an experienced officer.

Unmarked Police Cars

Know The Law

It pays to know your local laws and policies regarding unmarked police vehicles. For example, in Los Angeles, the LAPD's official policy is that unmarked vehicles may not perform a traffic stop. If an officer in an unmarked vehicle wishes to pull over a citizen, they must radio for a "black and white" with a uniformed officer to perform this task.

The LAPD's Officer Williams said, "A marked cruiser makes it obvious to the citizen that they are being pulled over by an official police vehicle. They can't then use the excuse, 'I didn't know' or 'I was afraid to stop.'"

Lauren's urban legend claims the young woman dials 112, #667, or #77. These numbers are claimed to be unadvertised, direct-dial speed dials that automatically connect a caller to the nearest police dispatch operator.

None of these numbers work nationwide. However, some states do have unique, specific phone numbers that motorists can use to contact law enforcement. A list can be found here.

Generally, police agencies recommend drivers just dial 911 to confirm that they are being pulled over by legitimate officer.

Modern Unmarked Traffic-Enforcement Cars

Officer Zielinski showed us an unconventional patrol car that Grosse Pointe Farms recently put into service. The Mustang GT is a 2009 model with a 4.6-liter V-8. The Mustang's gray paint, aluminum wheels, black racing stripes and hood scoop make the car look totally civilian, until its special lighting package fires up.

High-intensity LED lamps are mounted behind the windshield, in the grille, and on the exterior mirrors. Additional LEDs are mounted in the rear window and by the rear taillights to alert traffic approaching from the rear. The colors are brilliant blue, red and white.

Unlike the four-way flashers that are standard on civilian vehicles, the lights on police vehicle flash alternately between the left and right sides. Civilian hazard flashers blink in parallel, with the left- and right-side lamps flashing together. Additionally, the lights on modern covert police vehicles are much brighter than standard automotive lamps.

Officer Zielinski is one of the officers assigned to the Mustang GT. "We wanted to make our patrol car identifiable from up close. Because of that, we added the 'police' ID to the hood scoop so that people can easily read the word when we pull them over." How courteous.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      The Connecticut State Police do not use marked cars for patrol of any kind. They have a total of TWELVE (12) marked units of the 1200 or so they have...those twelve are used for PR. The ONLY identifier is the LED sign in the middle of the roof rack that says "State Police"...which is about one inch high...and you could never see this if the flashing lights are activated as they are far to bright. Oh...and that is IF they have the roof rack lights mounted on the car...ALL of the lightbars in CT for STATE POLICE are removeable as these are take home cars. They are supposed to have them on when working but often don't. I say all of that because this article, though trying to help, is full of misinformation. Much like the color of lights issue, etc.
      • 8 Months Ago
      why cant we just think for ourselves, why do we need to have so much talk about crap like this, its no wonder we dont blog about ass paper that tears while in use, wht to do. We have become such a panzey ass culture, i do blame the justice system, if we would just be able to kick some ass from time to time most of theses people of crime minds might think twice, but our left wing justice system for some reason give the bad guy the credit ********** like the a-hole who picks a fight but then gets his ass kicked bad, he sues for his ass beating and in 99% of cases in this left thinking culture wins, i was tought that if ******** a ********* your gamble, you gamble that you can take on the other guy and if you cant, well you lost the gamble, but again in our culture its always the the bad guy who the justice system seems to lean to, why? sso maybe if we bring back the death sentance for some of theses crimes there may be less, you wont law away human nature but you sure can cut it down abit.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Contrary to what they say in this article, in my area (central Indiana), this is most definately NOT myth or urban legend. We have had several well documented incidents in our area of men dressed as officers or claiming to be undercover officers puling women over in dark, rural areas & attacking them. Primarily the women are raped. No one has been killed (that we have been made aware of) yet but given the pattern of behavior, it is really only a matter of time. This has been going on in our area for more than 15 years now. I don't know about you but if someone was going around inpersonating ME, I think I would put forth all my efforts to find that person, particularly if they were causing damage on the scale that this person (or persons) has done! Ladies out there... don't buy into the lie that this type of thing is just an urban legend! It is real & if you are not careful could cost you dearly! I NEVER pull over for unmarked or even marked police cars in the dark.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Didn't AOL already do a report like this a while ago? Almost exactly the same? Jeez AOL, get a new story. We already heard this bull crap. And just so you know, I would pull over to a unmarked police car. I would just crack the window and ask to see his badge. If he didn't have one or it possibly looked fake, I would drive off and call 911. See, I can give better advice in a few sentences than AOL can give in a whole article. Why in the hell am I a member of AOL??????
      • 8 Months Ago
      the police are a joke they go on power trips and think there bad @ss put the gun and the ****** beater and pepper spray down and fight like a man bitch ass ************** cock *********** gay justin beieber loving ass lover
      • 8 Months Ago
      In Bridgewater Ma....a person posing as an officer raped a college student... I would recommend that any plain clothes alleged officer call in a on duty black and white unless their is a gun or life threatening situation
      • 8 Months Ago
      In Ohio it is illegal for an unmarked car to make a traffic stop.
      Rodney S.
      • 8 Months Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      #2 will get you dragged out of your car after a ram-stop, beaten to a bloody pulp, and then charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer (if you live through the beating). So will #3. #4 will be ignored by impersonator or even a real officer. Don't follow this advice folks, this author clearly is negligently uninformed in dealing with police or wants you to get seriously harmed by them.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Attaboy Rex - leave it to you to post incorrect information to people across the nation! Many states have firemen who utilize blue lights. Then again, many fire officials, fire marshalls, fire police (officers) utilize RED AND BLUE. The use of red and blue lights are governed by individual states & commonwealths. Please make sure you know what you are talking about before spreadng false information.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Dear delemento and hippo and robb145: Since a local college student was murdered several years ago after being pulled over by an "unmarked police call" with flashing lights, I would take the chance. Evading, resisting and impeding indeed! 911? Of course! That's what local police tell you to do to be safe! You don't think it's appropriate use of 911? Wow!
      • 8 Months Ago
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