Traffic stop: What if you’re not sure it’s a real police officer

WASHINGTON — Getting pulled over in a traffic stop can be stressful — what’s worse is not knowing whether the person pulling you over is really a police officer.

Recently, people impersonating police officers have pulled over drivers in Maryland’s Montgomery County and Virginia’s Prince William County.

If the officer is in a marked cruiser, and displays flashing lights, a driver should pull over promptly when it’s safe to do so.

But what if a driver is waved-over by someone in an unmarked car?

“If someone’s behind you, and trying to stop you, and you’re not so sure they’re a police officer, call 911,” said Montgomery County 4th District Police Commander Laura Lanham.

“Call right away, let them know where you are, and what is occurring,” said Lanham.

“They will ask you for specific information, and be able to tell you if that is a legitimate law enforcement officer, behind you.

“Slow down, put your hazards on, head toward a lighted area, where it will be safer to stop,” Lanham said.

If a police station is nearby, drivers can slowly head to the parking lot, to stop in a familiar, safe location.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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