How to spot a police impersonator

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A man faces several charges, including abduction and rape. Police say Johnny Quick pretended to be a Richmond police officer when a woman accepted a ride from him. Tonight, police have some tips to make you feel safer if you're stopped.

Have you ever been pulled over by an officer? Chances are the person flashing those blue lights is legitimate. But in recent months we've seen several incidents where that hasn't been the case.

"I always go on my instincts - they got me this far and that's a long ways," said resident Eddie Shelton.

Eddie Shelton says police impersonators are a growing concern. Resident Sharon Hord agrees.

"It's to easy to impersonate anyone you want to impersonate," said Hord.

Police want you to know what to look out for. Tip one: If it's dark outside and you're pulled over - throw on your hazard lights. Slow down and drive to a well lit area.

Police say when the officer approaches your vehicle, crack your window. Ask to see a badge and ID. If the person refuses, that's a red flag.

"You absolutely have a right to ask for ID. Every police officer is required to carry a badge and ID card," said Henrico County Police Lt. Eric Owens.

Don't open your door.

"That person who stopped you to commit some criminal act -- he or she now has the upper hand - the door is open there's no barrier between the two of you," said Owens.

If you're still not sure, call 911. And just because someone appears to be wearing a legitimate police uniform doesn't mean it is. Fake badges and uniforms can be purchased by just about anyone.

Real police officers also carry radios, they wear nametags, and duty belts with citation pads. Those in a generic-looking uniforms without those accessories are probably not who they claim to be. Vehicles can also give away an imposter. Real police units have license plates that ID them as police vehicles. Their sirens and lights are usually built into the car, not attached or removable. 

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.