Legal Question-Unmarked Police Cars?

What is the status of unmarked police cars, with policemen in plainclothes? Suppose you are stopped by someone claiming to be a police officer, yet the car is unmarked-do you have the right to demand to see a badge? Finally, I have heard of several robberies committed by people claiming to be police officers-do municipalities make a common practice to use unmarked cars? Seems like a dangerous idea to me.I mean, you don’t know who you are dealing with, and of course you are supposed to obey a command from a police officer.

Something like that happend to a friend and I on the outskirts of Detroit in the early 80s.

A crappy old car puled up behind us with a small red flashing light in the front window.

We pulled over.

A fellow in a ragged undershirt emerged and walked up to our window.

We looked at him, both exclaimed “You’re no cop!”, and dove away.

Nothing happened.

Considering that this board is read around the world, there is probably no “one size fits all” answer. Here in Texas, a law enforcement officer is legally obliged to show identification if asked.

We’ve had occasional incidents of faux cops pulling hijinks and are always advised that if someone attempts to pull you over, and you’re unsure if they’re a bona fide cop, proceed apace to somewhere where there are witnesses before stopping. The real cops know the drill and won’t run you off the road if you’re not obviously trying to flee.

A real cop car would have a blue light, not a red one. Civilian cars in the US are prohibited from having blue lights, just to make sure.

Not true. In New Jersey, rescue vehicles (this includes personal transportation) are allowed to have blue lights. I knew several people with either small “portable” blue lights or huge light racks on top of their trucks (the latter a bit cheesy, yes.)

The police used both blue and red lights, and firetrucks used all red.

Well, in Ohio unmarked cars are not allowed to pull people over for speeding, and almost never do for any type of traffic violation.

In NJ, the cops in unmarked cars still have uniforms on. They also have more than just a single light to turn on for you to see. They have the alternating headlights and usually lights in the grill. often times they have an additional light on the dash.

On the major highways, they have a decent mix of unmarked cars and marked cars w/o the light bar on top (looks like an unmarked in the rear-view)

In Texas it’s red lights that are restricted to police and emergency vehicles. They also use blue, yellow and white, but private security firms, tow trucks and construction firms use them as well.

As a police officer who speaks often to community groups, I always tell people not to pull over in a secluded area for an unmarked car. Just keep driving at normal speeds and obeying all traffic laws. Either drive to a well-lit and occupied location, or wait for a marked unit to show up and stop you.

I know there is some risk, because some of my brothers in blue can be real jerks if someone doesn’t do what they want right away. But it’s a lot safer (and should be legal, but check your local laws) than stopping for someone you cannot immediately identify as a cop.

The St. Valentine’s Day massacre was committed by people dressed as cops, so this is not a new problem.

It is a felony in California to impersonate a police officer by flashing a fake badge. Furthermore, in California, a police car enforcing traffic laws is required to be a black and white vehicle clearly marked. The only exceptions are if you are doing something especially dangerous.