There is a story in Colosse about a man going around and impersonating a police officer. He hasn’t done anything awful yet, but whatever his motives are they are assumed not to be good. The police are “reminding” everybody that any time you’re pulled over if you have doubts over the authenticity of the officer to find a well-lit and/or well-populated place to pull over. It’s considered a rule that as long as a person doesn’t make an attempt to flee, they should be given latitude as to where or when to pull over.
The problem with this is that when you’re being pulled over, you don’t know if the officer in the car behind you knows and understands this rule. Further, you don’t know that even if the rules should cut in your favor, whether you are doing yourself considerable harm by invoking them. It’s sort of like how you legally can’t be asked various questions on job interviews such as what your wife does but if you ever invoke this it’ll hurt you all the same (I had a post a while back on how my employers keep asking me what my wife does and they’re not supposed to do that, but I can’t find the post).
The first time I was ever pulled over I was sixteen and scared out of my mind. I was in the left hand lane and I didn’t know whether I was supposed to find some place on the left to pull over or to pull over to the right. We hadn’t gone two blocks before the officer was blaring “Pull over to the right or you will be arrested!” I got my answer, got pulled over, got a lecture and ultimately didn’t end up getting a ticket (I think that he thought I was a drunk driver which of course I proved not to be).
Of course, that pales in comparison to the case of Dibor Roberts. She was on a rural desert road when she was caught by an officer going 65 in a 50. She didn’t want to stop in a dark area and so slowed down and continued to drive. The officer ended up pulling in front of her and stopping (which is against protocol, apparently), busted threw her window, and allegedly got into an altercation with her that resulted in his foot getting run over and her getting arrested, tried, and convicted of assorted crimes. The officer says that he did what he did to “get control of the situation” and that it was her fault for not successfully communicating to the officer that did intent to stop at the next available, well-lit opportunity.
Noteworthy here is that the authorities in Colosse and indeed the website of the Arizona jurisdiction where Dibor was pulled over don’t actually say anything about having to communicate your intention to stop in order to avoid getting your window smashed out and going to jail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good idea to signal or turn on your hazards and it may be common sense to do so, but common sense slips one’s mind in high stress situations. And if it’s so obvious, of course, it should be mentioned as part of the whole schpiel about waiting to pull over every single time.
Granted, generally speaking when cops talk about this they’re talking about unmarked cars. It’s extremely rare that impersonators will actually mark their car up. However, when we’re talking about a “well-lit” place, we’re assuming darkness. Whenever I’m pulled over at night I can’t read the markings on the side of the car. I can’t in the daytime, either, though I recognize police cars by the bumper on their grill, other equipment and the full-class sedans they usually ride in. Of course, I should note here that sometimes they go out of their way to make it harder to tell.
I am getting worried that between Web and I this site is becoming anti-cop. I certainly don’t intend it to. Though I think sometimes things get out of hand I think that cops are in general a good group of people. My wife’s cousin, who hosted our rehearsel dinner years ago, is a state trooper. When I was dating Julie, I got to know a lot of Phillippi cops because her father was a volunteer fireman and there was a lot of overlap. Tracey’s Dad was a cop. Until I realized how temperamentally unsuited for it I was, I considered going into police work. I don’t envy them or their job. I just get a little annoyed sometimes when they sometimes say “You need to trust us” (in this case not to go berzerk if you don’t pull over right away) and then pull stunts like the Roberts case and line up in support of officers that do.
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