Prepare to avoid becoming a victim

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, October 2, 2014

Police impersonation isn’t a huge problem in Suffolk, but there have been a handful of reports over the years.

But even one is too many, when it’s a crime that takes advantage of the trust that law-abiding citizens have in their law enforcement.

Suffolk police this week have been investigating a report by a 24-year-old woman who said she was stopped on Sunday about 3:10 p.m. on East Pinner Street by a silver vehicle with blue flashing lights.

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Apparently, she later felt a sense of unease about what had happened to her and reported it to the police. A city spokeswoman said this week that the investigation was still ongoing and she was unable to confirm whether the stop was legitimate.

The Suffolk Police Department certainly has some unmarked cars, as do almost all police departments, which makes it somewhat more difficult to tell when an officer is legitimate.

Also complicating matters is that vehicles that have outlived their useful lives as police vehicles are sold to private citizens at auction, sometimes with side lights still attached, which gives it the appearance of still being a police vehicle.

There’s likely no need to get alarmed about the possibility of a police impersonator roaming around. However, there’s no harm in being prepared by learning some of the ways you can protect yourself.

There are plenty of ways you can avoid becoming a victim of a police impersonator who might mean you harm. Culled from a number of online sources, here they are:

  • Familiarize yourself with the color and design of your local department’s uniforms, badges and car markings. Photos of Suffolk’s can be found on the department’s website at
  • If you’re being pulled over at night, try to get to a well-lit area. Be sure to signal your intention or call 911 to let the officer know of your concern.
  • Look for a utility belt with all the equipment commonly carried by police officers.
  • If you have any doubt that a police officer you’re encountering is the real deal, call 911 and tell the dispatcher your concern.