The Pasadena Star News ran an article last week detailing a robbery that took place in Pasadena perpetrated by two men "impersonating" police officers. Nathan McIntire writes, "PASADENA - Two men with badges, handguns, a blue flashing siren and what looked like an unmarked police car stopped a motorist and robbed him of his cell phone and wallet Thursday morning..."
Although the crime did not occur in the City of Arcadia, this incident warrants a tip on what to do should an unmarked police unit attempt to stop you. Most police agencies do utilize unmarked units for various needs including administrative, civilian, investigative, surveillance and sometimes enforcement. The California Vehicle Code does require you to yield to an authorized emergency vehicle that displays a visible solid red light and sounds a siren.
It is not uncommon to see unmarked police units throughout our community. If an unmarked unit does attempt a traffic stop, it is usually related to some activity such as surveillance or investigation, or a blatant driving violation that requires immediate intervention by the police. The officers conducting this type of action are normally very recognizable with badges, vests, or raid jackets. Unmarked APD units are equipped with solid red and flashing blue lights at visor level as pictured above.
If an unmarked police unit were to attempt to stop you, look for the solid red light. Look at the type of vehicle and occupants. If you don't feel comfortable with the location of the stop or are not sure that the vehicle is actually a police unit, proceed at normal speed to a location that is public and well lighted before yielding. Officers conducting such a stop will normally radio for a marked unit to assist. Dial 9-1-1 on your cell phone and tell the dispatcher or operator where you are and what is occurring. When you do stop, remain calm, crack open the window, explain your concerns, ask to see the officer's identification card and to have a uniformed officer respond. For the person who has "failed to yield" for some distance or driven evasively, the officers will most likely conduct a "high risk" stop with multiple units.
Balance your safety with common sense. Legitimate police officers will do everything they can to be readily identifiable and under most circumstances you will know who they are.