ALPHARETTA, Ga. – A car bearing blue lights on its front grill was spotted Nov. 10 on Haynes Bridge Road in Alpharetta, but it wasn’t a police car – more on that later.
North Fulton officials say that while it’s not common for people to impersonate police officers, it does happen, and residents should be aware.
“We had one occasion where someone in a Crown Victoria car stopped somebody,” said Roswell Police Spokesman Lt. James McGee. “But we haven’t had any [incidents] this year. It’s sporadic at best around here.”
George Gordon, spokesman for the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety, said his city occasionally sees impersonators, including in the past year when a failed recruit of the local police academy continued to pose as a police officer, including pulling people over.
“Other agencies have experienced people with blue lights on their vehicle that have attempted to stop motorists, especially female motorists,” Gordon said.
In Georgia, it is illegal for any vehicle that is not an emergency or permitted vehicle to have blue lights of any kind, regardless if they are flashing or constant.
The vehicle spotted on Haynes Bridge Road was stopped by an Alpharetta officer on patrol who spotted the blue lights. The driver said the lights were hardwired into the headlights. All three occupants were eventually arrested, not for impersonating police, but for drug offenses.
While the driver in this incident was not trying to pose as an officer, he could have. McGee said the motives of such impersonators are rarely good.
“Any time people impersonate a police officer, their motives are nefarious,” he said.
Usually, only marked police cars will initiate a traffic stop, however if it is nighttime or the car is unmarked, that can worry some drivers about the authenticity of the officer inside. Detectives in unmarked cars typically let uniformed officers handle traffic stops.
“Detectives don’t often pull people over,” McGee said. “It has to be really something life-threatening or unusual for that to happen.”
Both McGee and Gordon advised that if a driver suspects the car flashing colored lights at them is not a true police officer, they have some options.
“What I’d recommend people to do is pull over at a lighted place with other people around as a safety precaution,” Gordon said.
If there is doubt, McGee suggested the driver proceed slowly – to show the officer that they aren’t trying to escape – and call 911 with the concern. Dispatch will confirm whether the officer is indeed real and they will convey the concern to the officer, so he doesn’t make any unnecessary moves.
“We’ve got to have that communication so we know you’re not trying to escape,” McGee said.