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unmarked patrol cars

Discussion in 'Legal' started by fchavis, Aug 23, 2006.

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  1. fchavis

    fchavis Member

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    Well, I'm about to start sending some letters out, but I wanted to run this by the community here first to see if you all think I have a legitimate grievance. I live and work within a 20 mile radius of Richmond, VA and have noticed disturbing trends regarding the latest breed of unmarked police cars.

    First off, I want to make it clear that this is certainly not a general LEO bashing thread, but one that I hope will shine a little light on a police practice that could easily be exploited by the criminal element, to the great detrement of public well-being. I've always thought that unmarked cars were a bad idea. At first they just gave them an inconspicuous paint job; then they started using unmarked Cameros. As a side note/story/example: on the tail end of a road trip (about two years ago) and I was close to home and speeding. It was 3:30 in the morning and I saw in my rearview mirror a sports car tail-gating me very closely, I mean he was 5 feet from my bumper. I got a little worried and sped up, to get around the cars in the right lane and switch over, but he kept on me. When I did make it over, he followed me and I started getting REALLY worried that this was going to be some sort of trouble (this was before I had my ccw, and was not THE reason I got it, but it did contribute), but then his lights came on. Now, I deserved the ticket originally, but the officer gave my top speed as what I had gotten up too trying to get away from him, and the only reason I was going that fast was because I was concerned for my safety. What bothered me latter was that I had pulled over only because I saw his lights, and they were the kind that fit inside the car. That was the only thing I could see. What would have happened if it turned out not to be a cop? I could have just payed the ticket, but I went to court to try to tell the judge what had happened, but he backed the officer.

    I tell that story to demonstrate one of the traffic enforcement practices that I think are unsafe. Not only was the officer driving a car that could not be identified as law enforcement, but tail-gating like that could cause an accident and get innocent people hurt.

    What this post was originally about, though, is that the unmarked cars around Richmond (maybe the rest of VA, but I haven’t spent much time driving around out there) now have completely regular license plates indistinguishable to normal citizens; maybe the start with certain letters, but they never told people what to look for. They have NOTHING that identifies them as law enforcement other than concealed blue lights. No light rack on top, no government plates (the big one in my book), no outside spot light, and no paint job.

    That is DANGEROUS. Anyone can put lights in their car and start pulling people over, then robbing or killing them, and if I recall correctly, just that happened in Florida, or some such. I know it is illegal for people to have those lights, but it is also illegal to murder anyone and just look at how that has stopped crime in Richmond. I haven’t been pulled over in about two years, so I don't want anyone thinking that my arguments are retaliatory in nature; I think there is a legitimate problem here and one that needs to be fixed.

    So what do you all think? I may take this to the city council, who’s sessions are public and partly televised so that I can get the word out. I reason that it is very difficult to fake a more obvious cruiser, as a legitimate officer would see them immediatly, and react accordingly; but if all they need is a set of blinking lights and a public that has been aclimated to such police cars, the area is ripe for criminal activity. Anyone notice a similar trend where you live?


    -Jon
     
  2. WayneConrad

    WayneConrad Member

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    1) Unmarked cars just aren't Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

    2) Tailgating is unsafe no matter who does it. It's annoying, ain't it?

    3) But... speeding up when being tailgated or followed does not increase your safety in any way. Bad choice. I agree with the judge.

    4) If being followed by an aggressive car, call 911.

    5) Same for getting pulled over by an unmarked car. Slow down, use the dome light or blinkers to acknowledge that you know the car is trying to pull you over, drive safely and calmly, and get on the horn to 911. It's perfectly alright to request a marked car or to ask the 911 operator to confirm that it's a legitimate stop.
     
  3. Deanimator

    Deanimator Member

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    What if you don't have a cell phone? I wouldn't have one if it weren't part of my employment.

    If a questionable vehicle tries to pull you over, you should drive to the closest police station... if you know where one is. Otherwise you should find the largest concentration of people you can... possibly difficult at 3:00am. The latter of course won't guarantee that somebody won't murder you, but at least there will be a lot of witnesses to your slaying.
     
  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Member

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    If you had stood on your brake pedal before he lit you up, you could have gotten a new paint job and more.

    Pilgrim
     
  5. Roadwild17

    Roadwild17 Member

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    I have already give my GF very clear instruction on this because a few years ago there was a serial rapist/murder that use this same technique.


    1. Acknowledge the officer (hazards however)
    2. Call 911 and request ATLEAST confirmation it is a real unmarked unit or get a marked unit onsite.
    3. Drive to the busiest place w/ a lot of light that you can find and pullover & wait for the person to get out, if it’s not a cop stomp it; OR drive until a marked car arrives.

    To any out here who may think this is wrong, I would rather stand by her in court than at her ferial.
     
  6. cbsbyte

    cbsbyte Member

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    Connecticut State Police Crown Vics patrol cars are unmarked, (though it seems they are starting to use marked white crusiers on the interstates) come in solid colors such as gray, Drk Blue, brown and tan and come with regular licenses plates. Some have light racks though now most don't. They have been doing this for at least three decades. During the day time it is easy to tell if it is a police car since it will have a spot light, mulitable rear antennas and a metal plate attached to the rear bumper with State Police written on it.
    [​IMG]

    In Mass the State Police have distinctly marked cars with light blue doors and roof with state police on the front and rear of the car. Not all have light racks on the roof. Though I have seen a few times, unmarked Ford Mustangs on the Pike with dark tinted windows, antennas on the roof and State Police license plates.
    [​IMG]

    From the marked 1989 Corvette to the unmarked 2005 Mustang. It looks almost civilian but has the radar detector mount on the drivers side window. Also no front plate. The black car to the left is also another MSP Mustang

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  7. Nio

    Nio Member

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    In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana...

    ...we don't have to stop for unmarked cars. The Sherrif has repeatedly stated that in public forums because criminals have used the tactic so much down here.

    Nio
     
  8. HankB

    HankB Member

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    Texas has had problems with fake cops - a couple of years ago, right here in the Austin area, a wacko had his car tricked out with lights and was pulling women over. He wasn't the first, either.

    I remember, years ago, that the Warshawski and J.C. Whitney catalogs were full of "police cruiser" lights, sirens, you name it . . . no doubt a google search will turn up many more sources today.

    For that reason, I won't stop for an unmarked car - being unmarked, the vehicle is, by definition, not identifiable as an LEO vehicle. More disturbing, sometimes the unmarked cars are operated by plainclothes officers - but YOU DON'T KNOW IF HE'S REAL OR NOT, AND CAN'T TELL BY LOOKING AT HIM!!

    I'll try to drive to the nearest police station - if a marked police car comes after me before I reach it, I'll stop ASAP and comply, but unmarked - uh-uh.
     
  9. fchavis

    fchavis Member

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    As far as the tail gating incident goes, I completely agree that I could have handled it much better and that experiance taught me a lot (on many levels), but I wasn't the only one driving dangerously that night.

    My big point here and what drove me to post in the frist place (the other incident was a side note) is that the new unmarked patrol cars here are COMPLETELY INDISTINGUISHABLE from their non-LEO counterparts unless you are stopped directly behind them at a red light and can look into the car and see the tiny light block and the driver's computer (imposible at night). They have no external markings, NONE. Their licence plates are NO DIFFERANT that anyone elses, 3 letters, a dash and 4 numbers, same coloring and no additional lettering what so ever. They do not have spot lights or multiple antennas. The only thing I can say about them that is not negative is that the couple I have seen (4 now all differant colors) is that they were either crown vics or impalas. They are solid colors, but then the vast majority of cars out there are also single colors. It is dangerous and I am going to do my best to get the word out and the trend changed. There to much crime in Richmond (probably everywhere) to be spending this much money on traffic violations and I can't see how this is not going to end very badly for a lot unsuspecting motorists who thought that only cops could have those little blue lights.

    It also could be a publicity stunt. They expend inordinate resources handing out speeding tickets and then get face time on the news (which they have been doing very often), talking about how they are cracking down on crime, while they are targetting the easy to catch crimes and bragging about how many offenders they nab. There are a whole lot of things wrong with this and people need to start speaking up.
     
  10. Monkeyleg

    Monkeyleg Member

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    Back in the late 60's, when I was a punk, the narcotics division of the Milwaukee Police Department used regular plates on their unmarked squads, not government plates.

    But they got their plates renewed all at once at the end of the year. So, if you saw a car following you with plates that started with Y11, you knew they were narc's.
     
  11. fordfan485

    fordfan485 Member

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    I saw one of those new impalas today going down I-64W. Couldnt tell it was a cop car until I was right next to him and looked over, slowed down a little after that. But I agree with you completely.
     
  12. Gordon Fink

    Gordon Fink Member

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    As I’ve said before, minor traffic stops serve only to find contraband and to get cops killed. We would all be better off without them.

    ~G. Fink
     
  13. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Florida changed their law about unmarked cars and traffic stops after a scared college coed ran from an unmarked car, wrecked, and died. Before she died, she managed to tell the medics her story.

    Her father, a state senator, was not pleased...

    It seems to be at least custom, if not the law, in Texas that an officer in an unmarked car radios to an officer in a marked car in order to make the stop.

    I guess I would contact various elected people, and the head of whatever law enforcement agency is using unmarked cars for traffic stops, and point out the hazards. The Florida experience is pertinent, and the Texas method is sensible.

    Art
     
  14. JohnBT

    JohnBT Member

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    "It also could be a publicity stunt."

    This isn't new. It's not a stunt. For all I know the cars are donated, confiscated or bought with drug money.

    If you want evidence of a publicity stunt that cost a lot of money go take some pics of the Interstate signs that warn us about the planes monitoring our speed.

    And slow down and move over, you're in my way.

    John the speeder.
     
  15. shell70634

    shell70634 Member

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    Is that RS 32: Harry Lee?
     
  16. big44

    big44 Member

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    I live in Virginia also. I was in law enforcement back in the early to mid 80's and at the time we didn't use unmarked cars. However, they do now. From my personal point of view I think the marked cars have a bigger impact on reducing crime. The problem I see with it is there are so many criminals out there posing as police officers that it's dangerous for women especially to stop for unmarked cars.

    But another thing that bothers me here in VA is the number of private police departments (hospitals, colleges, etc) springing up whose cars look almost identical to local departments. While I think we have way too many useless laws on the books I think that it should be against the law to have paint schemes that resemble local or state police.
     
  17. bakerj

    bakerj Member

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    I love the crown vic drivers around here who adorn their dash and package tray with tissue boxes, red and blue hats etc... all symetrically arranged to give the impression that they are driving a police car. Saw a guy last week with the full kit. Box of kleenex centered on dash, four corners of dash and rear window with alternating blue and red ball caps and the best was a pair of red plastic flower clusters on the top windshield corners held up by the visors. :D
     
  18. sm

    sm member

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    Intent

    Gets back to intent IMO.

    In any profession there are good and bad examples.

    We had Blue Light Rapist take regular cars, some were "similar" to unmarked cars, some were just about anything one could imagine and their "Intent" was to catch ladies out , pull them over. Just flash a blue light behind victims

    Our State Police issued warnings and protocol to civilians and Officers and on the passenger door is the State Police markings on door. This marking was / is not on Driver's door or anywhere on the vehicle.

    Now I know for fact and for a long time Unmarked vehicles of all sorts have been used in a reponsible manner by LEO. All sorts of investigations are on going, these folks are not giving tickets, and many may in fact be Undercover LEO. I knew of and had friends as UC. Anything from a six cylinder Maverick with "three on the tree" to 'Vettes, Porche's, BMWs, to pickup trucks.

    I mean a plain vanilla truck for a UC working illegal cock fights makes sense - don't it?

    Intent.

    My point is folks abuse Professional and Non- Professional Roles.

    When I worked in the Main OR we had an understanding with State, County, and Local Police, we were on call and if we were called , it was legal for us to "run with flashers on, at a safe prudent speed".

    This did not mean I/ we coulod hit 120mph, it meant I/we could run say 75 in a 60 if traffic allowed at that time of morning [ wee hours for me] to get to Hosptial.

    We had a bunch of folks , not Hospital folks, from all sorts of walks of life speeding - actually racing at 2 am on our freeways with flashers on.

    I almost got tagged and bagged one night heading to an emergency at the hospital having been called in

    Trooper later came by, and shared how the Jag, Benz, Bimmer and Porche were clocked at ~ 140 mph racing...all with flashers on. A new wee hours game the movers and shakers were playing.

    I was doing 65 in a 55 zone and the trooper "figured it was you[me]" and that Porche almost ended up in the bed of my truck and I had gone to the shoulder as far as I could.

    Intent.

    We have a few older Ford P/U trucks watching the roads around here by LEO - tag with radar and radio ahead to a marked unit.
     
  19. jaysouth

    jaysouth Member

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    Fchavis,

    Specifically, which jurisdiction was this in? city of richmond, Henrico country?

    If it was in richmond, you can yell and scream all you like, they don't care. They have created an alternative universe that they live in. If you don't represent thousands and thousands of indigent blacks, you don't count. The police are incompetant and riddled with lazy affirmative action supervisors. As long as they get their checks, they don't care and you and common sense don't count.

    Henrico, on the other hand is squeaky clean. They had a policy of not making traffic stops with unmarked cars. This once resulted in the death of a state trooper, but they stuck to their guns.
     
  20. Nio

    Nio Member

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    Yep. Gotta love Harry.

    Nio
     
  21. Mark Whiteman

    Mark Whiteman Member

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    We've had sporadic problems with fakers around here, but for the most part, its been stories in the media that raised concerns. The local PD even had something in the paper about what to do if you had doubts whether it was a real cop. Basically, don't open your door, ask for ID, if you are afraid to stop at all, go to the nearest police station or public place. But don't expect much sympathy if it is a real cop with a uniform, the right badge, ID, and a citation. It didn't help they closed down public access at all precincts except the one downtown at night.
     
  22. fchavis

    fchavis Member

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    Jay:

    I saw one on the western portion of 288 (just south of 64), one in Chesterfield, one on 64 within Richmond city limits and one on 64 somewhere between Richmond and Williamsburg (been doing most of my driving on I-64 of late). These were all within about a week and a half. The unmarked cars with gov plates (I think? never really started looking until now) and external spot lights (I always saw these first) are everywere and have been for a long while now. I've seen them in red, dark green, white, and a couple of shades of blue.

    JohnBT:

    as far as the publicity stunt bit goes, I dont mean to imply that it is the sole act of the police departments, but more one by the executive positions, if there is one at all.
     
  23. Steve in PA

    Steve in PA Member

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    So..........because the unmarked car doesn't have a light bar and government plates, you have a problem with that?

    What part of "unmarked" don't you get? Your state may mandate front and rear plates, but what if only rear plates are required? How are you going to tell from in front of the vehicle whether it has government plates on it or not?

    Lack of a light bar, radio antenna's, etc..........again, "unmarked" means unmarked.

    Most PD's will not do traffic stops with "unmarked" cars. PD's with unmarked cars make their officers aware of the problems they may have with motorists and as long as you acknowledge the lights flashing in your rear view mirror (slow down a bit, turn your flashers on, drive to a well lit location, etc).

    Unmarked cars serve a valuable purpose. Ever hear the phrase, "every little bit helps"? So all those minor traffic stops, all those easy to catch crimes have an effect. So now, according to some, the PD's should do nothing about all the easy crimes???? Should not do traffic stops because they get officer killed, etc.

    A never ending source of amusement :rolleyes:
     
  24. MD_Willington

    MD_Willington Member

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    We have the Impala and Malibu IIRC in Eastern WA also, along with the Fords in solid colors.

    The Fords still have the standard police rims on them though, small chrome cap in big black steel rim, or no chrome cap in big steel rim, from what I've seen... pretty much a giveaway.
     
  25. SMMAssociates

    SMMAssociates Member

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    Don't forget Chessman in CA a few years back....

    Locally, the City PD's unmarked units - very many years ago - were ordinary Ford Customs with blackwall tires and "beanie" hubcaps. License plates were in the form of "YPD-12"....

    I think that was to help the Supervisors keep an eye on the field troops....

    Regards,
     
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