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What's with the unmarked police minivan?

Original post made by Brian, Amador Valley High School, on Dec 27, 2010

I saw someone get pulled over by a unmarked white minivan that had the typical flashing red & blue lights in the upper part of the front window. The "officer" that got out was wearing a windbreaker type jacket and blue jeans. Sure as heck didn't like like any officer I've ver seen. If this guy were to have pulled me over, as soon as I saw the "officer" get out, I would have been long gone, thinking he wasn't the real thing. My daughter mentioned that she had heard about this and that if you are pulled over by this person, you should pull over in a very public place and demand that a "real" officer come and verify that this person is legit. Anyone else heard/read/seen anything about this? Makes me very nervous as a father to two teenage daughters the some goofball is out there pretending to be a cop. I understand those light bars are not too difficult to acquire.

Comments (19)

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Posted by ccwc
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Dec 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

I would not stop for an unmarked vehicle. There are lots of stories about this type of thing. Or, you are right - get to a very public place and then phone into the local police department. Did you call and find out about this with the PPD????

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Posted by Claude
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 8:48 am

No way I stay stopped for a guy in a windbreaker and blue jeans in an unmarked car. Jeb, how about getting a response from the Pleasanton Police about this.

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Posted by That's crazy
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 28, 2010 at 8:56 am

I've seen this van too. I can't imagine any reason why PPD should be using that thing for issuing traffic citations. Even if they are doing undercover work a marked car should be used to pull over another vehicle.

I agree, Jeb should request an explanation from PPD.

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Posted by ccwc
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Dec 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

And even if the PPD confirmed it was a legitimate car - who's to say someone might cap on that and cause real trouble. So even if the PPD confirms - I will not stop for an unmarked van for heavens sake!! Do they need to issue a ticket THAT bad???

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Posted by Robin
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

I was leaving Trader Joe's last night around 5:45 and saw an unmarked police vehicle in at the gas station and it looked as though they had pulled someone over and were searching through their truck. If anyone knows anything about this, please post.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

Common people let the Police do their job. Those officers are chasing down bad guys or have you not heard about all of the recent burglaries and other illegal activities going on in our once peaceful little town. Most likely they were pulling over a vehicle or person that matches the description of a suspected robber, thief, etc..., you name it. I'll bet not one of you saw them with a "ticket book" in their hand actually writing a ticket. They are making the streets and our homes safer for all of us. The next time you see a COP take a second of your time and thank them for what they do.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

The above post shouls have started our With "Come on people" not "Common people". Sorry about that.

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Posted by simple solution
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:16 am

I was once stopped by an undercover van just like this, in another town. My car matched a description of a stolen vehicle and the pertial license plate available to them matched the first part of mine. Good stop on their part. On my part, I called 911 and described my location and the description of the van. The dispatcher was able to satisfy me with various exchanges of information that they were legitimate while letting them know not to approach my car until I was OK with it.
Not a big deal, just use common sense. Or turn on your flashers and drive slowly to a firehouse, occupied parking lot, etc. I agree that we need to let our PPD do the job and catch the criminals.

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Posted by jaycee
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

I seriously doubt a "real" criminal or someone driving a stolen vehicle would stop for a "real" police car, let alone a white minivan with a light bar on top! But, I will be alerting my teenage drivers to this, so thanks for the post! I was taught(many!!) years ago when I got my license not to ever pull over for an unmarked vehicle of any kind.

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Posted by ccwc
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

Oh such trusting people in this day and age. There are some real sick people out there that could buy - a flashing light and put it in ANY car and pull unsuspecting people over for robery or worse! Think about it!!! You wouldn't want your mother, sister, wife, friend to fall prey to this kind of person and if you doubt they are out there - that you are living in Fantasy Land!

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Siena
on Dec 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

I am retired law enforcement. The proper thing to do if an unmarked, regular looking vehicle pulls you over: acknowledge that you see them and that you DO want to pull over and that you are NOT running from them by turning on your 4-way flashers and continuing to drive by obeying all traffic laws (stop at red lights, stop at stop signs, etc). Make sure your doors are locked and your windows are rolled up, and drive to a very public place (such as the Safeway parking lot, or the police department parking lot, or the front of any fire station). While driving, call 911 and tell them that a white van is trying to pull you over and the guy driving it is not in uniform. If CHP answers the 911 call (unfortunately, they sometimes will still get local 911 calls), you need to ask to be transferred to Pleasanton Police. (CHP does not have a record as to whether or not a Pleasanton unit is trying to pull you over---they have no idea whatsoever, which is why you need to be transferred).

When you do end up in the public location that you picked to stop in, just roll the driver's window down a little bit so that you can talk to the person through it. Keep your hands in plain sight at all times!!!!!!! Do not make any furtive movements that could change this small incident into something bigger--just stay calm. When the officer approaches your door, you tell the officer that you're not getting out of the car or unlocking the door or doing ANYTHING until that officer shows you PHOTO ID that he/she is a real police officer. Any officer in an unmarked vehicle wearing civilian clothing will have their photo ID with them. If the officer says, "I forgot it" or says some other thing that is suspicious and will not produce a photo ID, then tell the officer that you will sit there and wait for a black and white marked police car to show up. Keep in mind that by now, it is also possible that the dispatcher that you are talking to on the phone has already told you, "Yes, that is one of our officers in the white van and yes, they are trying to pull you over right now". Obviously, that ends all suspicion right there and you must pull over and do what the officer tells you. There is no need to ask for ID, because 911 is already telling you that the person is an officer and is trying to pull over YOUR car. From that point forward, you know that you are being pulled over by a police officer.

I have had cases in the past where I was in my full uniform, driving a fully marked police car, and I was working midnight shift. I would stop at someone's house if their garage door was open. I would knock on their door to: a) let them know that they left their door open, and b) ask them to look to see if anything has been stolen. I have been standing on the front porch under a porch light where the homeowner can see me, and they were still suspicious if I was actually the police or not. The solution in those situations were simple---I would tell them to call 911 and ask if there is an officer out at their front door. Once they made the call and verified that I was indeed who I said I am, then everything was fine.

And one more thing to note.....Unfortunately, there are "wanna-be" police officers out there who actually do go to the effort to buy police lights (the type that you mount in the front window), and they go out and pull people over. In my department, we had a guy who was once an Explorer as a teenager, and when he became an adult, he purchased a used police car (Ford Crown Victoria), bought the "POLICE" markings for it, and made up the name of a phony police department (it was a railroad police department). He was actually very clever in how he did it. So clever that it took two years before he was caught. But back to my main point.....if you're not sure if the person pulling you over is truly a police officer, do not panic. Again, turn on your 4-way flashers, obey the laws, start driving towards a very public place, and call 911 to verify if the person behind you is the police or not. And if you get to the point of the officer contacting you before you have an answer from 911, then just roll down your window a crack and ask them to show you their photo ID.

Any questions, feel free to ask.

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Joe, Good info

I called the Pleaanton PD and was told they DO HAVE a white mini van working the streets. So, hopefully, that answers that part of the question.

However, I agree with Joe and feel his comments are right on. I will certainly put on my flashers and head to a well lit, public space before pulling over completely for an unmarked vehicle.

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Posted by Gina Channell-Allen
president of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Dec 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.

Joe, Thank you for responding to the questions on this forum. The information you gave is extremely valuable and very much appreciated.

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Posted by Gary
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Dec 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I called Pleasanton PD and confirmed they do have an undercover unit that drives a white minivan equiped with lights and siren. My suggestion would be to pull over in a public place as soon as possible. I would also be careful for those who said they would not pull over... you could find yourself in more trouble if the police believe you are trying to run.

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Posted by Craig
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I was driving down Main street with my friend a few months ago, and we got pulled over by the "white van". The plain clothes officer approached our vehicle and showed his badge and informed us that he pulled us over because our lights were not on. He was also checking to see if we were drunk. He was very respectful and professional and only detained us for a couple minutes.
We were definitely surprised when he pulled us over, but as I said before he identified himself immediately and was very professional and courteous.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thank you Joe for sharing your expertise!

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Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Craig, how did you know what the man said was true and that his badge was real?

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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 28, 2010 at 8:07 pm


How do you know God and love is real? Come one... On Main St. in Pleasanton with a fake badge, fake emergency lights, and he didn't do anything beyond checking to see if they were drunk.

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Posted by Pleasanton Teacher
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 30, 2010 at 10:26 am

I have talked to PPD officers before and know that the white van is used by undercover officers assigned to drug enforcement and crime prevention. I dont imagine this white van would pull someone over for a simple violation unless they were suspecting crime was related. And I bet the officers are already aware that some drivers may be hesitant to pull over and will accomodate their request to drive to a well lit area or have a black/white car respond to them.

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