Bentonville police are searching for a man they say pretended to be a police officer and pulled a woman over. This isn't the first case of a police impersonator in Northwest Arkansas, and police say there are ways drivers can protect themselves if they are unsure an officer is for real.
When a driver hears sirens and sees flashing lights, the experience can make drivers nervous and cause them to abandon common sense. Lt. Derek Hudson of the Springdale Police Department said that's exactly the response crooks are hoping for.
In the last year, cases involving police impersonators have been reported in Rogers, Little Flock and most recently Bentonville last week. A woman told officers a man with police lights pulled her over and tried to open her door. He then left when he realized her door was locked, she told police.
Hudson said people commit the crime for different reasons.
"Some do it for some type of financial gain. Others try to do it as a type of way to defraud the individual in the car," he said. "Some people do it for the thrill or just because they want to be the police."
A marked vehicle with blue lights and an officer dressed in full uniform are some things drivers should look for when they get pulled over. Additionally, it's important to pay attention to how the officer identifies himself, Hudson said.
Hudson said if drivers are still suspicious after an officer identifies himself, they can ask to see the officer’s badge.
"That officer should have no problem with a person verifying who they are by calling dispatch," he said. "Officers should have identification and badge on them."
Hudson said if drivers are pulled over at night and have suspicions, they should not stop driving until they are in a well-lit area like a gas station or store parking lot.
Impersonating a police officer with the intent to defraud someone is a felony in Arkansas.
A former Washington County constable was arrested last year in Benton County after deputies said he impersonated a law enforcement officer. Police said he used emergency lights and a sewn-on badge to trick at least one person he pulled over.
Another man allegedly broke into cars at a Springdale apartment complex last August and threatened to shoot witnesses, while pretending to be a member of the Springdale Police Department.
A Rogers man was arrested in December 2012 after allegedly pretending to be a police officer. Investigators said they found a Gentry police badge, a light bar and a siren in the man’s vehicle.