The news has been full of reports throughout the state of fake cops stopping motorist. Some of you may recall the 1997 arrest of Robert Birmingham, better known as the Blue Light Rapist. He stood accused of stopping four women in his vehicle with the assistance of a blue dash light, under the guise he was a law enforcement officer. He was also suspected of the assault of a woman in her home. The attacks took place in Cross, Lee, and Lonoke Counties and spanned two years. In each case, the women were stopped on isolated roads, and by the time they realized it wasn’t a police officer who stopped them, Birmingham was pointing a gun at them. He was sentenced to life plus 80 years.
This case is not isolated. There has been a resurgence of these attempts made by those who prey on the trust between citizens and law enforcement. Forrest City has had two reports of a man in a white Dodge Charger with blue lights in the grille, wearing a “Saint Francis County Undercover Officer” shirt. He’s described as Hispanic, 6’2”. The first encounter, the motorist pulled into a gas station. The suspect said the reason he stopped her was there was a person stopping women who isn’t a cop, and “he wanted to make sure she got home safely.” A fellow customer saw the interaction, and began to walk toward the cars, at which time, the suspect walked back to his car, then drove off. The second encounter, the suspect pulled over a motorist for running a stop sign. In both cases, the women were unharmed.
Russellville, AR has their own version of this with a white male suspect in his 30’s, clean shaven with spiked hair, dark clothes, and a V-neck shirt. He was driving a white car with a red light on the dash. He pulled over a teen between Dardanelle and Paris, and motioned for her to roll down her window. He also demanded she exit the vehicle so he could search it. She asked to see his badge, to which he replied that he left it at home. She drove off.
In Drew County, Arkansas, two men are posing as cops and writing speeding tickets. While this is a money-making scheme, it is still criminal impersonation and a taking advantage of the trust between law enforcement and citizens. Another example of this is from Benton County. Two men were arrested in February 2017 for a list of crimes stemming from the car they were driving. It was a black and white Crown Victoria, complete with a light bar on top, siren, “Police” on both sides, and a push bumper. Their charges were: Criminal Impersonation-1st Degree, Possession of Sch II, Emergency Lights and Sirens by Prohibited Persons, Lights for Emergency Vehicles, and Driving on a Suspended Driver’s License.
What can you do if you’re being stopped and you’re not sure if it’s legitimate?
- If you have someone pull behind you and activate blue lights, turn on your right turn signal, indicating you intend to pull over, then reduce your speed.
- When you reach a well-lit, and well populated area, pull into an area where it is safe for you and the officer to stop.
- If you are on a long stretch of road, and there isn’t a populated area nearby, call 911 and ask if there is an officer attempting to stop you. Give your location, vehicle description, and tag number. The dispatcher will be able to determine if an officer has called in that stop.
- Law enforcement officers will identify themselves when they walk up to your vehicle. If they are in plain clothes, take a close look at their badge and other identifying information.
Our deputies take their jobs seriously. They are proud to serve and protect Craighead County and its residents, and will always be there for you. Thank you for allowing us to be your Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Marty Boyd