Feb 062003
 
Authors: Patrick Crossland

Police encourage public to be aware, cautious

By Patrick Crossland

A phony “special police” badge can be purchased on the Internet for $3 and an entire police uniform including hat and badge can be purchased for less than $100 through Internet auction sites.

Impersonating a police officer is a crime that can result in a prison sentence and has some community members nervous for their safety.

“Fort Collins feels like a safe place,” said computer science graduate student, Elizabeth Boese. “I don’t feel like something is going to happen like in other countries.”

Despite Fort Collins’ safe reputation, recent events have some students like Boese acting with more precaution.

“The thing I’m most scared about is if someone has rolling lights and pulls me over,” Boese said. “I’m more nervous about that happening. It’s scared me enough to slow down and not speed any more.”

The Fort Collins Police Services released a list of steps to take if someone is pulled over and feeling endangered.

“Recognizing that some people are uncomfortable, we wanted to give them some guidelines about how to act,” said spokesperson for Fort Collins Police Services, Rita Davis. “This is for those who are legitimately fearful.”

Guidelines include safely and slowly driving to a well-lit area with people present and stopping, requesting identification and asking for a marked unit to respond to verify the contact is legitimate.

Captain Bob Chaffee, spokesperson for CSU Police Department, said a person who is pulled over by an unmarked car has to consider two issues, the obligation to adhere to the law as well as the obligation to maintain personal safety.

To appease both, Chaffee suggests that a driver who feels legitimately endangered put on his or her four-way flashers, indicating they are aware of the officer and to then proceed to a well lit area.

He also said a driver can call 911 and confirm with a dispatcher that they are in fact being pulled over by an officer by telling the dispatcher the make, year and location of the driver’s vehicle.

Police encourage frightened drivers to roll their windows down only far enough to pass documents through and to leave their doors closed.

“Most (officers) will cooperate and will have a badge to say which agency they are with,” Chaffee said.

Chaffee warned community members that there are many additional issues that that can make safety a priority.

He set up the scenario whereby a person might knock on a victim’s door impersonating an officer and then entering the home, or bumping a victim’s car on a desolate road, thus getting the driver out of the car.

If someone says they’re there to work on your cable and you don’t have cable, be scrutinizing,” Davis said.

Despite the popularity of self-defense classes, Chaffee said the best defense is common sense.

“By the time it comes down to self-defense (a victim) is too deep in the hole,” he said. “We prefer (the public) not get down to those situations in the first place.”

To prevent a situation requiring self-defense, Chaffee encourages the public to scan the environment before leaving a place of safety such as a home or vehicle.

He likened safe thinking to a cat, whereby the public should remain safe with peace of mind, yet mimic a cat’s ability to remain constantly aware of its surroundings.

“Don’t be nervous, don’t be scared, be aware,” Chaffee said.

Eloise Campanella, the spokesperson for the Larimer County Sheriffs Office, said most unmarked cars are used by investigators and would probably not be used for a routine traffic stop unless the driver is putting the public in danger.

Some students like biology major Mackenzie Tulleners are leading the trend in personal safety.

“I always make sure I’m walking with someone,” she said. “I’ve taken self-defense classes, but I try not to put myself in a position that would lead to endangerment.”

Money Magazine once named Fort Collins the 14th safest community in the United States and readers digest named it the third best place in the United States to raise a family.

Despite Fort Collins’ safe reputation, police are encouraging community members to be precautious and community members are learning to be so.

Break out Box:

If pulled over or endangered

* Drive the speed limit to a well-lit area with people present and stop your car. Do not roll down your window or open your car doors.

* Tell the officer you are afraid and that you would like to see his or her identification. Do this through the closed window and speak up so the officer can here you.

* Ask the officer to have an unmarked unit respond to verify that the contact is legitimate.

* If you have a phone you can contact the following agencies to verify a police officer has stopped you:

o Fort Collins Police Services970-221-6540 and ask to talk to a dispatcher;

o Larimer county Sheriffs Dispatch office at 970-416-1985;

o Colorado State University Police at 970-491-6425;

o Colorado State Patrol dispatch at 970-2394518 or, if using a cell phone *CSP, or DUI, or. They should be able to verify that a legitimate police officer has stopped you.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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