While instances of police impersonators are rare, unfortunately they do occur. Legitimate police vehicles in Wisconsin typically have both red and blue emergency lights and are equipped with siren apparatus. Most police vehicles will have numerous emergency lights, and it is relatively rare for a police vehicle to have just one or two emergency lights, such as a single dashboard light.
If you have legitimate concern that you are being pulled over by a police impersonator, there are a few things that you can do to stay safe:
- While we in most cases discourage the use of a cell phone while driving, in this instance if you are able to safely do so, dial 911. Once you are on the line with a 911 dispatcher, explain what is occurring and provide them with your location, plate number, and vehicle description. The dispatcher will then broadcast this information to all police units to verify whether it is an actual police officer conducting the stop. If the dispatcher is unable to verify this, they will remain on the line with you and direct you to a safe place, such as a nearby police department. They will also dispatch police units to your location.
- If you do not have a cell phone, it is recommended to drive in a safe manner (normal speed) to a safe location, preferably a police station before stopping. If you do not know where a police station is located, another option would be a well-lit public location that is open, such as a convenience store. If necessary, consider turning on your hazard lights and honking the horn as you pull in to attract attention to your vehicle.
- If neither of these options are possible, continue operating normally to your destination, such as your home. If possible, pull into a garage and close the door. It’s important that you immediately contact 911 and explain what occurred. First, in the instance that it was a legitimate police vehicle, this will help to explain that your intentions were not to flee, but rather born out of concern for your safety. Second, it’s important for law enforcement to be made aware of any potential impersonators operating in the area.