The Baxter County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) and Mountain Home Police Department (MHPD) are jointly alerting the public about the complaint received Monday morning about an incident Sunday night.
The woman reported she was traveling into Mountain Home on State Highway 5 North about 6:15 that night. She said she saw a man in a black sports car with "fancy wheels," pass several vehicles to get behind her. When she arrived in Mountain Home, she turned down some side streets in the Northern Hills area. While on those city streets, the woman says the man following behind her turned on a flashing blue light on the dash of his vehicle, and she pulled over somewhere on Arkansas Avenue.
After pulling over, the woman said the man got out and walked up to her vehicle. He was described as probably in his 30's, slim, muscular build, with short light colored hair and some facial hair. He was wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt. The woman also reported he was wearing a gun, but said she did not see a badge and the man did not identify himself but asked for her license and other documents. He also reportedly told her he was going to write her a traffic ticket, but then told her to go.
The BCSO says in a news release that it is unusual that a bona fide law enforcement officer will attempt to make a stop on a vehicle by using just a single dash light mounted on an unmarked, unfamiliar vehicle. All Sheriff's patrol vehicles and Mountain Home Police patrol vehicles are fully marked with multiple emergency lights and sirens. Investigators and some administrative personnel drive unmarked vehicles, but most of these are also equipped with multiple emergency lighting systems and siren should those officers need to stop a vehicle in the performance of their duties. Any off duty or plain-clothes sheriff's deputy or police officer would also have a department issued badge and identification card that he or she would immediately display to any person pulled over. Department policies also require all officers who make vehicle stops to radio those stops in to the communications dispatchers so that all information can be properly and accurately logged and recorded. Most department policies also prohibit off duty officers when driving personal unmarked vehicles from attempting to make vehicle stops in other than very urgent situations, certainly not for minor traffic offenses.
The BCSO and MHPD offer the following advice to anyone when a person in an unmarked vehicle with a solitary flashing or rotating dash light is trying to pull them over:
- If you have any uncertainty about the legitimacy of the person operating a vehicle with a flashing or rotating dash light trying to get you to pull over, you may turn on your emergency flashers and continue driving at normal speed until you reach a place of relative safety, such as a business that is open with other persons around. If after dark, seek a well-lighted location in view of other passing motorists, or drive to your local law enforcement office or facility.
- Be alert for the sound of a "siren", which may help confirm the legitimacy of the person displaying the flashing or rotating light. Legitimate law enforcement personnel will have a siren mounted in unmarked government vehicles. Illegitimate imposters may not have a siren. This is only an indicator of potential legitimacy, and the presence of a siren is not a guarantee that a legitimate officer is behind you. This is only a clue that you can look and listen for.
- Use a cell phone to call the Sheriff's Office or Police Department. Dispatchers should be able to confirm whether or not a legitimate law enforcement officer is attempting to pull you over. If this cannot be confirmed, do not stop for the unmarked vehicle but continue driving at normal speed to a safe location. The dispatchers will send assistance to you.
The BCSO says while there will be occasions when legitimate officers in unmarked vehicles displaying full emergency lighting and siren may initiate a vehicle stop, officers understand that there are imposters who may seek to harm people by impersonating an officer. Our officers will be understanding and show patience with citizens who are reluctant to stop for unmarked, unfamilar law enforcement vehicles because they understand the potential for foul play by an imposter.
Should anyone have additional information concerning the incident that happened Sunday night in Mountain Home, or if you have any information about a potential suspect or additional vehicle description, call the BCSO or the MHPD.