Provincial police are issuing a reminder that officers don’t pull over motorists to ask about their employment status amid the coronavirus pandemic, and that drivers who suspect they’ve been stopped by a fake cop should contact 911 immediately.
It comes after Oxford OPP say a motorist was allegedly stopped near Tavistock, north of Woodstock, in early April and asked about her “essential worker” status by a man donning what appeared to be a police uniform.
The incident occurred during the first week of April along Braemar Sideroad near Highway 59, police said, adding they were notified of it on April 24.
The suspect vehicle has been described by police as a dark-coloured SUV equipped with a light bar that flashes red and blue lights.
“The OPP do not stop motor vehicles to inquire about the employment status of the driver or its occupants,” said Insp. Anthony Hymers of the Oxford OPP in a statement.
“Drivers should also know that they are not required to prove they are an essential worker to police.”
It’s the latest in a series of police impersonation incidents that have happened across southwestern Ontario in recent months involving drivers who have reported being pulled over and asked about their essential worker status, according to police.
Saugeen Shores police arrested a 38-year-old Seaforth man on May 5 after officers observed a black Ford F150 that was outfitted with a police lights package.
Officers say they later located a police speaker, microphone and radio inside the vehicle, as well as other lights, including a light bar, and lights on the upper windshield, the grill and on the vehicle’s rear.
Police said they suspect the vehicle has been involved in false vehicle stops on motorists in southwestern Ontario, noting the matter is still under investigation.
In Essex County, meanwhile, provincial police are investigating after a woman was stopped around 9 p.m. on April 23 along Naylor Side Road near North Talbot Road in Lakeshore.
The motorist told police the vehicle that pulled her over had red and blue flashing lights, and that the driver approached her window wearing clothing resembling a police uniform.
Police say the suspect asked her questions relating to her essential worker status.
The suspect is described as a 30- to 40-year-old Caucasian male, tall and fit, with short, brown hair and a scruffy beard, driving a small, older-model black and white four-door vehicle similar to a Ford Taurus.
Police said the suspect vehicle had a roof mounted emergency light bar with red and blue lights.
And in Wellington County, provincial police are still seeking a male suspect who allegedly stopped a motorist on April 14 and asked them about their essential worker status.
The suspect in that case is described as a 30- to 40-year-old Caucasian male with short, dark hair in a brush cut, with some unshaven facial hair.
Police say the man was wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and a ballistic vest with “POLICE” across the front in “yellowish-orange” letters, and was driving a black four-door sedan, possibly a Ford Fusion or Taurus, with a blue strobe light on the dash and a small trunk antenna.
In a separate case, Wellington OPP charged a 25-year-old Puslinch Township man on April 22 after he allegedly stopped a family out riding their bikes on April 17.
According to police, its alleged the suspect was operating a black, older-model Ford Explorer SUV that appeared like an unmarked police vehicle.
The complainant told officers they heard the driver yell something at them over a PA system, police said, adding the vehicle had yellow and orange flashing lights in its rear window.
In the wake of the Nova Scotia massacre, in which a murderous rampage by a Halifax man impersonating an RCMP officer claimed 22 lives, provincial police issued an alert to motorists on May 12 about what to do in such a situation.
“Those stopped or approached by an officer in plain clothes driving an unmarked vehicle are within their rights to ask for the officer’s identification or request a uniformed officer be present,” OPP said in a news release.
Police added that residents should call 911 if they believe the person is not a real police officer.
Anyone with information about the aforementioned active incidents is asked to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
— With files from Matt Carty
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