Fake cop stop?

BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem Police are investigating an incident in which a driver claims to have been stopped by someone impersonating a police officer.

The motorist reported being stopped by a black Chevrolet sedan on Route 9W in the area of Church Road in Selkirk, on Friday, Jan. 4, at about 9 p.m.

There has been just one incident, and no others since, said police spokesman Commander Adam N. Hornick. “Based on the investigation we’ve done, we believe this is a true incident,” he said.

The Chevrolet sedan displayed a red-and-blue flashing dash light and had no front license plate.

The motorist was reportedly stopped for having an insufficient tail light but, when the motorist and the person claiming to be an officer went to check it, the tail light was working properly.

After the two checked the tail light together, the driver became more suspicious and asked for identification several times, Hornick said. The man who had made the stop then returned to his car, did a U-turn, and drove north on Route 9W, leaving the scene of the stop, Hornick said.

The suspect is described as a white male, 25 to 30 years old, with a thin build and a dark complexion.

Bethlehem Police are requesting anyone who was in this area on Jan. 4 at about 9 p.m. to contact them at 518-439-9973 with any information. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Capital Region Crime Stoppers at www.capitalregioncrimestoppers.com or by downloading the free P3 Tips app to any IOS or Android device.

The Bethlehem Police remind motorists that it is legal for unmarked police vehicles to conduct traffic stops in New York State. They offer these safety tips:

— Officers are “highly trained to stop people in well-lit populous areas,” said Hornick, adding, “They try to avoid stopping people in the middle of nowhere”;

— Officers in unmarked vehicles who are not in uniform are also trained, Hornick said, to show their credentials as soon as they approach a driver, and to work with drivers to verify that they are indeed officers;

— When an officer in an unmarked car makes a traffic stop, dispatchers immediately send a marked car in that direction, Hornick said;

— If motorists are skeptical or wary of an unmarked vehicle stopping them, they should stop in a well-lit, populated area, and/or call police from a cell phone simultaneously to ask if the person making the stop is really an officer; and

— Another idea would be to pull into a driveway of a brightly lit house where people are clearly at home, Hornick said, adding that residents would be likely to notice two cars pulling in. The driver also might call a friend, leave the line open, and inform the person making the stop that someone is listening, he said. “If it’s an imposter,” Hornick said, “they’re going to take off.”

Hornick said that it is legal for unmarked cars to stop people in New York State and that, technically, drivers can accrue additional tickets if they fail to stop for a police officer. So, he said, drivers need to weigh their options and decide what to do.



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