A man driving a car with lights and a siren and dressed in a polo shirt that identified him as an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper handcuffed a teenager this week while he searched her car.
Authorities said the man was not a real trooper and they are warning others to be aware of what troopers and police look like when they approach motorists.
According to a police report, a 17-year-old girl was driving west on Interstate 40 near Douglas Boulevard when she was pulled over about 8 p.m. Tuesday. The car that pulled her over had flashing red and blue lights and a siren.
A man approached her driver's side window and informed her she had been speeding. The man was wearing a dark polo shirt with “Oklahoma Highway Patrol” embroidered on the left side of the chest.
The man asked the girl if he could search her car. The girl was handcuffed and put in the back of the man's car, a black Dodge Charger with white doors that had “Oklahoma Highway Patrol” on the side in blue letters with a white outline. The car contained a radio but no computer and did not have a spotlight, brush guard or many of the other features a law enforcement vehicle would have.
The man continued searching the car, returned and let the girl go, throwing her driver's license at her before speeding away.
Oklahoma City police Capt. Dexter Nelson said the report was disturbing because the man went to such great lengths to appear legitimate.
“We've had impostors before, but we've not had too many with a vehicle and equipment,” Nelson said. “What is also concerning to us is that she was handcuffed.”
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Chris West said troopers interacting with the public will always be in brown and khaki uniforms including a badge, even if they are in unmarked vehicles. They also carry credentials including a card issued by the patrol and another from the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, which all law enforcement officers are required to carry.
Anyone suspicious of someone stopping them should ask to see credentials. Real police and troopers will not get angry, West said.
“We are all about the safety of the public,” West said.
Troopers' license plates match their badge numbers.
Nelson and West also encouraged drivers who are suspicious of a car trying to stop them to slow down, turn on their emergency flashers and find a well-lit, populated area to pull over. Police will not assume you are running from them if you drive slowly and turn on your emergency flashers, Nelson said.
“You can also call 911 and confirm that the person pulling you over is a police officer or a trooper,” Nelson said.