Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Two stories in the news recently about "fake cops" harassing motorists.  Just an FYI because if you're "pulled over" on a bike by someone with bad intentions you have less of a physical barrier.  
If a cop, or someone you think may be a cop indicates that you should pull over, remember to do so in a well lit public place if possible, and remember that you have a right to see a badge, and can call 911 to verify that it's a real cop if they're plainclothes.  Unfortunately there have been stories of people with a power complex that use flashing lights and sirens to intimidate and harass (and possibly harm) people,  and on a bike you're a little more visible and vulnerable.   So be careful out there!


  1. That is a strange story that certainly makes me uneasy. I have been stopped by police before - once for cycling the wrong way on Brattle back when this was commonly done and then there was suddenly a crackdown, and once just to be flirted with. Never occurred to me to ask for a badge, but it seems like I should.

  2. About five years ago, I was stopped by two cops who were most likely bogus. They pulled up alongside me in their van. One of them yelled "Nice legs!" and told me to stop. I didn't, and a bit further down the block, they pulled up to me again, this time forcing me onto the sidewalk and nearly hitting me. The passenger side door flung open in front of me and the passenger jumped out. "When a cops says, stop, YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO STOP," he passenger yelled. The driver appeared and chimed in, "Yeah, we can arrest you."

    It was disconcerting to say the least. I'm bigger than the average woman, but each of those cops had about 75 pounds on me. And their belligerence, I realized, was "'roid rage."

    After they looked at my ID, I asked to see their badges. Having covered police proceedings as a journalist, I knew their badges were fake. Oh, and we were in New York, and their van had Pennsylvania license plates.

    I reported the incident to the precinct and a female officer told me that other women on bicycles had similar experiences that month. Although I gave a license plate number, nothing seemed to come of my complaint.

  3. Wow Justine- That's super scary. The thing that's disturbing about this kind of behavior is that someone who is disturbed enough to try to pull that kind of thing is likely missing a few other important social control overrides. Unfortunately this kind of bully is most likely to target people who are more vulnerable- bikers and women, and women bikers, which is why I wanted to pass along the warning.

  4. Honestly, any motorist wanting to target a cyclist isn't likely to go to the trouble of becoming a fake policeman. The fake police do so to gain power over people they couldn't normally. I think the perps in Justine's case had something different in mind but picked on her as an extra bonus target. Sadly, as a cyclist, mostly cyclists get harassed by real cops that are ignorant about cycling law and safe cycling practice than by fake cops.

  5. Honestly, most cops I know (and I've known a lot through work, and I'm not a cop) are good people who just want to go home to there families after their shift. I think it was a fake cop, and I agree do what you can to get to a well-lit and public place, have your cell phone programmed to autodial 911, and be assertive.

  6. "An out-of-town officer would have to be "an idiot" to make a stop in plain clothes and an unmarked vehicle without identifying himself or showing a badge."

    Well if I wanted to find an idiot, the Boston Police would be the first place I'd look. Seriously. Of coooourse I respect the work of the BPD's honest officers, but the department certainly has its fair share of psychos.

    In fact, I witnessed a somewhat analogous incident in Boston. A guy was screaming nonsense at a woman for no reason and acting very threateningly, to the point where I was close to calling 911, when I realized that he was (mostly likely) an undercover cop.

    I bet it was a cop. The BPD *certainly* has its fair share of psycho officers.

  7. Justine - "Although I gave a license plate number, nothing seemed to come of my complaint."

    Wow, scary. I expected that this would be one of the few (okay, I'm exaggerating?) crimes cops do care about.