University police receive report of alleged officer impersonation

Michael Bragg

Appalachian State University Police received a report from a female student of an incident where a man allegedly impersonated a police officer, according to a crime alert email distributed Friday.

The student reported “she was pulled over by a light gold or silver compact car, possibly a Chevrolet Malibu,” according to the alert. “The car had no police markings and displayed a blue light on the interior dashboard.”

The student was pulled over on Hill Street at approximately 12:30 a.m. Friday. She described the man to police as a white male in his late 30s or early 40s.

Lt. Darrin Tolbert of ASU Police said that the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department dealt with a similar situation recently, but this is not something that has happened on campus “in a long time.”

Boone Police verified that two similar incidents have happened in Watauga County recently but referred questions to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office could not give an official statement at this time.

Tolbert said that the situation has not been labeled “high alert” but that university police want students to be aware.

Tolbert said the police department does not know the man’s intention by impersonating a police officer.

Tolbert said that the safety tips provided by the crime alert are what police agencies nationwide recommend to do in situations like the student reported.

According to the alert, students are to use caution when pulled over by an unmarked car displaying blue lights only. If a student is unsure about the car pulling them over, they are advised to turn on their flashers, drive to a well-lit area, and call 911 to confirm it is an official police officer.

Tolbert said that official police cars, driven by sworn law enforcement, will be equipped with blue lights and a siren.

However, Tolbert said that there are different makes and models of police cars, and different blue lights. The amount of blue lights a car is equipped with may also vary.

Tolbert said that if students call 911 in the case that they are unsure of the validity of the car pulling them over, it may take a couple of minutes for the operator to verify which police agency is making the traffic stop.