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Driver Safety 101: How to Handle a "Fake Cop"

Police impersonation is a growing problem in the United States. In Texas, it is a felony offense for individuals to impersonate a police officer with the intent to induce submission to their proclaimed authority. Drivers need to exercise extreme caution when they encounter a suspected impersonator. These costumed clowns aren't funny, and there have been numerous instances of assaults, rapes, and murders involving wannabe cops. In terms of driver safety, learning how to spot a "fake cop" is as important as learning the rules of the road.

The first thing you should do is to look in your rearview mirror at the vehicle. Does it look like the type of car a police officer would drive? If it is old and beat up, it is not likely a legitimate police car. Remember, many police impersonators purchase surplus police cars that law enforcement agencies discard. If it looks like an older model vehicle with police markings, it's likely a car driven by an imposter.

If in doubt, you should dial 911 immediately. Police dispatch can tell you whether there is a police officer near their location. Motorists should provide a description of the vehicle, and if possible, a description of the driver. If it's not a police officer, drivers should follow the instructions of the police dispatcher.

Many police impersonators act after dark. They do this because limited lighting makes it more difficult for drivers to identify them as a fraud before they pull over. If you encounter a suspected impersonator in limited lighting or after the sun has gone down, initiate your flashers, slow down, but do not pull over until you reach a populated, well-lit area. As stated earlier, you should also call 911 to verify that you are in a legitimate stop by a uniformed police officer.

And, get your camera ready. In Texas, you're allowed to record the activities of law enforcement. Police officers cannot request to see, confiscate, or delete anything on your phone or camera without a warrant. If you encounter someone playing cop, legitimate law enforcement officers can use your photographs and video evidence to track down and apprehend the police impersonator. They'll put them where they can hang out with police officers all day long.

Contact Welmaker Injury Law at (800) 494-1916 for more information about driver safety and the steps you can take to protect yourself when you are behind the wheel.