Ask a Trooper: Impersonating traffic officers rarely happensE-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your question to Duluth News Tribune, Attn: Ask the State Trooper, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802. You may remain anonymous if you choose. Read past columns at duluthnewstribune.com.
Q: I recently read that drivers can dial 112 when they are being pulled over by an unmarked squad and be connected with that state’s trooper dispatch. The article also stated that drivers have the right to not pull over until they have reached a well-lit, public place if they are being pulled over by an unmarked squad at night. Is there any truth to this? Also, what’s the safest thing for a driver (female) to do if being pulled over alone at night?
A: This question comes up occasionally. There is no truth to it, at least not in Minnesota. I even checked with our head dispatcher in the state. He called 112 and got nothing, and knows nothing about 112 or any other number that would do that.
Calling an emergency number just because you are being pulled over is not practical, and would not be advised. Minnesota officers stop thousands of vehicles a day, and if everyone called in just for that, then agencies would have to hire hundreds of additional people to answer the calls. It would be an extremely costly ordeal.
As far as “having the right to not pull over until they have reached a well-lit public place” is completely false and is not even possible in many rural parts of our state. Our law requires all vehicles to yield to emergency vehicles (that you are meeting on a two-lane road or that are coming up behind you with lights on) by pulling over and stopping. Of course, pick a good spot if there is one very close by.
The safest thing to do for anyone (not just a female) if being pulled over alone at night is to stay in your vehicle with the doors locked and the window down a couple inches so you can speak with the officer. If you doubt the validity of the officer’s identity, then tell the officer that you are concerned about it and ask for identification if possible. Ask them to help you to be reassured that they are legit.
Having said all of that, officer impersonators are extremely rare, and they typically don’t have uniforms, and traffic officers do wear them. At night, you would not know if it was an unmarked car or not, but I will say that even unmarked cars are marked on the right door, if they are working traffic. Also, real squad cars working traffic have a lot of emergency lights, not just one little red light, like the rare impersonator who bought his at a five and dime store. Thanks for asking.
Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.