Posted at: 01/17/2013 1:54 PM
Updated at: 01/17/2013 1:59 PM
Police are reporting the third officer impersonation incident in the Northland in the past two weeks, but the most recently-reported incident actually happened before the others.
The alleged incident happened in the 3700 block of Johnson Road in the late evening hours of Jan. 4. A juvenile female motorist says a tan SUV activated red and blue flashing lights as she slowed down to turn into a driveway. The SUV continued past her after she turned into the driveway.
The driver reported the incident on Jan. 7 after hearing of a similar incident Jan. 5 near Biwabik.
Another incident was reported Jan. 14 in Superior, but vehicle descriptions were different in the three incidents.
Police are investigating a 17-year-old Hermantown High School student in the Jan. 4 incident. The Hermantown Police Department says the 17-year-old has a vehicle similar to the one described by the victim which had emergency lights and a siren mounted inside, and say the driver admitted to the incident. Police have turned the case over to prosecutors for possible charges.
In a press release, the Hermantown Police Department said it is aware of the incident in Biwabik and has been working with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, but didn't say whether there was any indication the incidents were linked. Two possible police impersonators were seen in the Biwabik incident.
The vehicle in the incident near Biwabik was described as a small, unmarked car. The drivers did not have contact with the police impersonators in the Biwabik or Hermantown incidents.
In the Superior incident, a man identifying himself as "Officer Darg" driving a blue car pulled over a vehicle in an alley near the Post Office and had contact with the driver. The impersonator eventually let the driver leave without incident.
Lieutenant Ed Kippley with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office said there are ways to be sure the lights flashing behind you are the real deal.
"And then we do have marker lights on the front that flash. Strobe lights that flash on the front and back of the vehicle. So the car is very well lit up," Kippley said.
But it can be hard to see at night. He said it is legal to drive safely to a bright and populated area for a traffic stop.
"You can keep driving, just don't go speeding off at a high rate of speed that would cause the officer to become alarmed," Kippley said.
He also said drivers can keep their doors locked and windows up. Officers are required to carry photo identification, so drivers can ask for that as well.
Kippley said drivers can be cautious and officers will be patient.