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Police Impersonator Incident Raises Questions on Lights

Know the difference between red and blue in order to stay safe

From the desk of Lt. Dave Constantineau of the Muskego Police Department, an article to further clarify the difference between an impostor's 'police' lights and the ones real law enforcement uses.

It has been reported in several media outlets that on September 26, a woman was assaulted near Waterford after she was “pulled over” by a car with a single red flashing light. The suspect vehicle was described as dark a colored 4 door with the 4th digit on the license plate possibly being a “T”. The suspect is described as a male black, 6 feet tall and 200 lbs.

I received an email from a local business owner who read the media reports, and didn’t know about the difference between red lights and red and blue lights, and asked if I could touch on it in this week’s newsletter. In the state of Wisconsin, state statute states that emergency police vehicles have a blue light displayed on the passenger side of the vehicle, and a red light displayed on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The lights can be flashing or rotating, and must be visible from the all directions. It is also against state statute for any vehicle other than an authorized police vehicle to display or use a blue light (except a fire department command post).

If you are getting pulled over, and something about the situation doesn’t feel right, either because no blue light is displayed, or because the vehicle doesn’t look right, or for any other reason, you do have options. If it is a true officer, they are not going to go away if you don’t stop, so the safest thing for you to do is turn on your hazard lights, and continue to a lighted area. In that way, you may be able to see the graphics on the squad that identifies it as a police vehicle. Impersonators do not normally run the risk of calling attention to their cars with graphics.

If you are still not sure, you can call 911 and explain the situation. One thing to be aware of though, is that if you are on your cell phone, there is no guarantee you will be connected directly to the department that is, or is not, trying to pull you over. Most cellular 911 calls do not go to local police departments, but to consolidated dispatch centers not located in the municipality you are driving in. If there are certain municipalities you drive through all the time, program those numbers into your cell phone. If you are certain you are in, say, Muskego, call our direct, non-emergency number 262-679-4130. You will be connected to our department right away and can explain the situation.

If one of our officers is trying to stop you, the dispatcher you are talking to will know it immediately and give you the peace of mind you need to safely stop your car. It will also give our officer a better understanding of why you didn’t stop immediately. And if our officers aren’t the ones trying to stop you, we can get help on the way immediately. If you aren’t sure where you are, or in an area covered by the sheriff’s department, such as the Town of Vernon, by all means, still call 911.

What I would ask is that, if it is found that you are indeed being pulled over by a real police officer, understand that the officer’s suspicions, and what we call our “tactical awareness” will be heightened until we are able to confirm the reasons for your failure to immediately pull over. Remember that while you were fearful for your safety because you could not immediately confirm the identity of the officer, that officer will also have concerns for his/her safety until your identity and intentions are also confirmed. A mutual understanding of the situation will lead to a much more positive conclusion. I hope this helps with any questions or confusion you may have regarding this topic.

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