How to Tell a Real Police Officer from a Fake

By Rachel Martin

April 3, 2013 Updated Apr 3, 2013 at 6:36 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – it's gone viral! Thousands of reports of a man impersonating an officer and making traffic stops are all over Facebook, and police are trying to get to the bottom of it.

Indiana State Police (ISP) say reports and a photo of a white Dodge Charger that looks like an unmarked police car, have been circulating on social media since Friday. The report says a white man with brown hair and hazel eyes, is targeting women and attempting to stop or follow the. The report claims this incident happened along I-469 and DuPont Rd.

Lt. Tony Casto with ISP says he received a warning about the car last night from Officer Tom Rhoades, the director of security at Parkview Hospital, near where the impersonator was spotted. Lt. Casto says the e-mail described the car as a “police-type” vehicle, and therefore says police aren’t sure if they’re only looking for a white Dodge Charger. Since Friday, Lt. Casto says ISP has received one report of a suspicious vehicle, and they have officers on the case.

21 Alive called police agencies in all the surrounding counties, they say they’ve gotten numerous calls of questions and concern, but have no documented reports of an incident. Even if the FB posting is fake, police say they’re taking it very seriously.

In the meantime, Lt. Casto says there are ways to tell the difference between a real officer, and a fake if you get pulled over.

“Rule number one for any person, any agency, is if it's in an unmarked car, the officer has to be in full police uniform to stop you for a traffic violation,” he said.

In fact, Lt. Casto says it is state law to be in uniform when pulling someone over, whether the car is marked or not. Lt. Casto says there are other things like flashing lights and antennas that will indicate a legit unmarked police vehicle. But, if you're not sure, police say to ask for a badge and ID or call 911 to verify if an officer is making a traffic stop in your area. If you feel you’re being followed, Lt. Casto says turn on your flashers, which will be an indication to trained officers that you acknowledge them, and slow down to the speed limit. He says to drive to a safe, well-lit area and then call 911.

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