Unmarked Pleasanton police cars causing public concern
Original post made
on Dec 29, 2010
If you're a bad guy in Pleasanton, don't be surprised if you get pulled over by an unmarked police car.
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posted Tuesday, December 28, 2010, 9:47 PM
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Posted by Joe
a resident of Siena
on Dec 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm
I posted some suggestions yesterday in the other Town Square Forum that discussed this same topic. I will copy/paste my suggestions below. I'd just like to add a few more tidbits that might be helpful, based upon what I have read in this forum today.
First of all, unfortunately for PPD, their "unmarked" van has now been "burned" (that's the term we use when a vehicle is no longer useful as being unmarked....meaning everybody knows that it's the police now). So the department is going to have to start using different vehicles (if they have any), or they are going to have to purchase something else. This means that you might be pulled over by something other than a white van. Don't panic---the same rules apply. But now, since the whole town knows about this van, that pretty much makes that vehicle useless for the purpose it was intended.
I would also like to mention that to many of you, I understand that you are a bit surprised and shocked to hear that a police department in a "sleepy" little community such as Pleasanton, would have an unmarked police vehicle. The truth is that most departments, large and small, have unmarked police vehicles. This is nothing that just started or is new. This has been going on---literally---before I was born. It is NOT a new phenomenon. Using an undercover vehicle with officers wearing plain clothes is an extremely effective way to combat crime that is happening in certain areas. As an example: Daytime residential burglaries. Most of your who are reading this right now have never seen a residential burglar (to your knowledge!!). But they are not the shady, long-coat wearing, sunglass wearing, sneaky, creepy strangers who are lurking behind trees. That's in the movies and in cartoons. The reason that burglars are able to steal from your home while you're away at work is because they look just like you and me. They don't "sneak" around----the steal in broad daylight, and what they're doing looks like just another furniture delivery or a donation truck picking up goods. (There are more methods, but I would rather not get specific). When a department has a trend of a certain crime happening in a certain location, oftentimes they will assign officers in plainclothes and in an unmarked vehicle to "cruise" an area to look for things that are out of place. You would be surprised how much a beat officer knows about his/her beat, and how they are able to instantly recognize when something doesn't look right. When you work the same beat every day, you get to know the people, the routines, the times that kids are picked up, etc, etc, etc.....So by using this technique of going undercover, it's a great tool for law enforcement to use in order to catch the bad guys. (By the way, someone mentioned "revenue" and that by writing more tickets from an undercover vehicle, the City will make more money.......I am definitely NOT an expert on where the money goes when you pay your ticket, but I'm fairly certain that most of it does not go to the City. I'm sure someone out there knows where it goes, but that has been my understanding. I welcome any corrections, as this is a topic that I'm just not very familiar with).
I would also like to make a point that I feel is very important, and I apologize for going against the recommendation of Sgt. Michael Tryphonas, who said that citizens can call the non-emergency number of Pleasanton Police to verify if the unmarked vehicle pulling them over is truly the police or not. Prior to my law enforcement career, I was also a 911 dispatcher and supervisor, so I know how it works on both ends. The problem with the Sgt's recommendation is this: If you were to call the department's business phone number on a weekday during business hours, the odds are very high that the person answering the phone has no clue what's happening on the street and whether or not an unmarked vehicle is on the road. It's probably the receptionist who is answering the phone---NOT the 911 dispatcher (who knows exactly what is going on at that very moment in time). I had the unfortunate experience of calling PPD's business number to report a traffic accident (with injuries), and it wasn't until about 5 minutes (which is a VERY long time) into the phone call where I finally had to ask, "Are you a dispatcher??". She told me no, she was the operator (or some other term that I can't recall at the moment). That person was not trained (or was poorly trained) in how to take an emergency phone call. But with dispatchers, you are in DIRECT contact with the person who is talking on the radio to the officer in the unmarked vehicle. The person who answers the business phone during business hours, in general, has no clue what's going on at that exact moment in time. They might be able to look at a computer screen to see what activity is taking place, but you are certainly not getting to the heart of the matter quickly----as you should be in this circumstance. Think about it this way----the undercover officer has already turned on his red/blue lights and he/she has already talked on the radio to advise dispatch that he/she is pulling you over. Shortly after that, you are picking up your cell phone, turning on your 4-way flashers, finding a place to drive to, and then talking to a non-dispatcher----all the while you are getting put on hold, transferred around, put on hold again, while the clerk/phone operator tries to figure out what's going on. Nothing against phone operators----I'm just trying to explain the reality of what happens when you call certain phone numbers. So while all of this being put on hold, being transferred, and checking is going on, you STILL have an officer behind you with their lights turned on and that officer is saying on the radio, "I have a vehicle that is failing to yield", and the call begins to escalate. That is why I believe that the proper advice is to simply call 911 and get yourself directly into where you should be---with the dispatcher. Immediately, you can be told that you are being pulled over by a Pleasanton police officer. Boom---done. But in calling the business line, you could very well be put on hold before you even have a chance to explain what's going on ("Pleasanton Police, can you hold?"). So with all due respect to the Sergeant, I believe that the advice should be to call 911 for the reasons mentioned above.
Below is a copy/paste from what I wrote yesterday in the other forum on this same topic:
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.