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Law Enforcement impersonation

March 13, 2015
By Trooper Vince Kurtz - Iowa State Patrol Safety Education , Estherville News

Q: There have been a lot of stories lately of someone impersonating an officer and stopping cars on the highway. What should readers do if they suspect this person is behind them?

A: Reports like these have surfaced periodically across the state. Traditionally, many of these incidents could be chalked up as 'urban legends' gaining steam through the social media multiplier of today. While many reports are never corroborated, each story tears at the basic fabric of law enforcement operations the public's trust. For this reason, law enforcement takes ALL reports of officer impersonation seriously.

There are many questions out there. Who is doing this? Why? Is the public in danger? At this point, we do know that law enforcement is investigating at least 2 cases of officer impersonation. The Iowa State Patrol conducts thousands of traffic stops each year, in addition to assisting hundreds of stranded motorists. These two impersonation incidents are an extremely small fraction of our traffic enforcement operations. Because the public trust is central to our mission of Courtesy-Service-Protection, we would offer these tips to ease your mind when dealing with law enforcement on the road.

What to do if you see red and blue lights behind you

n Pull over as required by law. It may be an emergency vehicle headed to another incident.

n If the law enforcement vehicle pulls in behind and you suspect something is wrong, lock your car doors and crack your driver's window to speak to the officer. You can also dial 911 to speak to a dispatcher.

What to look for when interacting with the officer

o Red/Blue lights- Amber lights are used for maintenance/construction and direction. They are never used to initiate a traffic stop.

o A Uniformed Officer- Most departments require an officer to be in full uniform when conducting traffic enforcement.

o Badge/Credentials- If you are still not convinced of the officer's identity, ask to see a badge and/or credentials. Every officer is required to carry a picture ID card issued by their department. (See attached photo)

If you have information relating to these incidents, please call the Woodbury County Sheriff's Department, or your local law enforcement agency.



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